I was sitting at an event right beside a woman with an intellectual disability. I’d seen her around and we’d chatted a couple of times but it would be a stretch to say that I knew her. Wheelchair users seats are pre-determined, we sit in spaces that have been predetermined. That day it meant that she was sitting beside me.
Over the next half hour, she asked me for permission to:
get more popcorn
go to the bathroom
say hi to someone she just saw come in
scoot around the back of my wheelchair to get something she dropped
Now, only one of those needed my permission but all the rest certainly didn’t. I used up my store of:
it’s up to you
do whatever you want
you don’t need my permission to do that
It was shocking the degree to which she handed her power over to me. Without thought of the dangers of that move. Without thought regarding loss of autonomy. Without thought about who I might become if I consumed her power.
It would have been easy just to give her permission, it would also have been quieter because my approached caused her a bit of panic. It would have been easy to fall into that role.
But, she’s about 5 years older than me.
She is my elder.
It’s time that she take the reins of her life.