Life

I don’t need God to bless me

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
-Thomas Jefferson

Our founding father had the right idea, on paper anyway. I think he forgot a few things, most of which I’ll save for another time; I think mister Jefferson forgot the disabled community. Yes, the disabled community has the most rights protecting us, the world seems to forget that we too are afforded the same basic unalienable rights as our able-bodied counterparts. Such basic rights include: having a job.

I work part-time at a local higher end department store. I am at least the local branch’s if not the entire corporation’s first disabled associate. Luckily, the management and my co-workers are nice and very accommodating, which initially I wasn’t expecting. It’s the customers that can be a bit narrow-minded.  Out of my two shifts a week, I can guarantee at least one customer will make some sort of microaggression toward me during at least one of my shifts. If you don’t know what a microaggression is it is defined as:

mi·cro·ag·gres·sion – a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority.

Typically these sentiments are just verbal usually along the lines of:

A) “You work here, WOW that’s so great!”

or

B) “Oh, you work here I assumed you were a customer.”

But in the instance today I was making my rounds on the sales floor when I spotted a man presumably late 40’s/ early 50’s and his wife. They looked a bit confused so I stopped and asked for help; the man declined my offer then proceeded to clasp my hand in between both of his and say: “God Bless you.”. Not knowing what to say I quickly thanked him and went about my business. I appreciate the gesture but at the same time find it terribly awkward because I’m willing to bet that, that man wouldn’t have done that to my able-bodied co-workers purely for doing their job.

I don’t understand why people think it’s so great that I, a wheelchair user but otherwise average twenty-two-year-old have a job. It’s just a job.

 

Separate But Not Equal

If you’ve been a follower of my blog then you are familiar with the media battle I’m involved in, in regards to the documentary I’m involved with. For the past few weeks myself, the producers, and the agency that is funding the film have been pushing for the film festival which is scheduled to screen the documentary to hold the screening at an accessible venue. After some media attention that was less than favorable for the film festival the venue was finally moved to accommodate those with mobility issues. Sounds like a win, right? Not exactly, although those of us involved are generally pleased with the change of venue, FilmColumbia has also chosen to remove Possibility: The Space Between Limits from its short film program. In addition to moving the venue the date and time has been changed as well; the film is now showing on an entirely different day at an obscure time than its counterparts. It is this blatant segregation of the disabled community that the film itself is trying to combat. Does FilmColumbia not realize bygone is the era of hiding away the differently abled and it is this degrading exclusion from their programming that makes the organization as a whole look no better. The move of the venue puts a bandaid over the issue but the wound of exclusion festers underneath.

Do No Harm But Take No Shit

Amidst my morning routine of daily pills, social media checking and steeling myself for the day ahead, my phone rings. It was one of the producers of the documentary I’m in, set to open at Film Columbia festival next weekend. She briefs me on the status of our battle for a venue change; not going well. Why a venue change, because the film club which is screening the movie booked it for the least accessible building in the town where coincidentally I grew up. And are refusing to move the screening. My producer also informed me that a letter written by the board of directors of the nonprofit that helped fund the documentary, to the film club was leaked to the press and is front page news. She asked if I am prepared for and okay with the possibility of more media attention as well as the possibility that I may be photographed being carried into next Saturday’s opening. I remind her that this is my life and notoriety is nothing new. Worst case scenario, I explain, I bring more attention to the problem and our project. The saying goes after all, the squeaky wheel gets the oil. I don’t intend to harm the reputation of Film Columbia nor is any of this written with ill intent; as I think the organization truly didn’t think of the fact that their venue of choice is inaccessible for not only wheelchair users but anyone with a mobility issue. It is the fact they won’t provide a solution once made aware of the problem that I will not stand for.

If you would like to read the news article mentioned in this post it can be found here:

https://www.hudsonvalley360.com/article/film-screening-keeps-out-some-disabilities

They’re All Gonna Laugh At You

Tomorrow I start orientation for my new job, and it dawned on me that this’ll be the first time in my life that I will be alone somewhere new without an omnipresent other person. I am nothing short of terrified. I’ve always been an anxious person even with someone to act as support so the fact I’ll be alone scares me even more. I haven’t had to make a friend that didn’t (a) work with me or (b) grow up with me in probably, ever.  I’d like to think I’m a friendly enough person that I’ll do fine, but that at the same time what if no one likes me?

I keep having a recurring image of the scene from Carrie where she keeps repeating: “They’re all gonna laugh at you!” because I’m kind of convinced they might. Or even worse I won’t have anyone to eat lunch with and I’ll be the weird girl who eats lunch by herself. Add to the fact, I’m terrible at”small talk” and social ice breakers are the bain of my existence. Is it possible to die from a panic attack?

Lights, Camera, Action

Anything is possible, at least that’s what I was taught growing up. Deep instilled in me is the notion that can’t isn’t a word and possibility is limitless. That’s why I was thrilled last fall when I was approached to be in a documentary featuring a group of other disabled individuals and the various relationships we form.

Although I am in a romantic relationship with a partner whom I adore and he is mentioned in my segment he isn’t the main focus. Instead, I chose to focus on my relationship with the world around me as I toe a unique line of disabled but really. My family even gets in on the action featuring my niece and nephew (who will surely steal the show) and a very candid interview from my dad that’ll make you want tissues.

It was extremely important to me to do this project because of  how raw and candid I get not only in my segment but also as the narrator throughout the entire film. If you’re in the Ghent, NY area on Saturday Oct 21st I suggest heading to Art Omi gallery for a cinematic experience that answers the questions the world is too afraid to ask. Possibility The Space Between Limits is a conversation with the disabled community you didn’t know you needed to have.