Monday, January 4, 2010

The elephant in the room...

I shouldn't really refer to Ashlea as an elephant...especially seeing as she is getting a little chunky at the moment, but sometimes people go so far out of their way to be politically correct and not say anything about disability that it feels like they are avoiding talking about the elephant in the room.

I caught up with some friends on the weekend that I haven't seen for years.  YEARS. We were friends in our  late teens / early twenties but have lost contact over time.  Anyway, I saw some of them on the weekend (thanks to facebook) and it was a little strange.  When I meet other mums of kids with special needs we are not backwards in coming forwards about asking questions about our children, sharing stories, critiquing hospitals and doctors - you name it we'll discuss it.  But NONE of these friends asked anything about Ashlea.  Not one question about what her condition is.  Not one question about if she'll walk.  Not one question at all.  Not even when I pulled out the feeding tube and gave her afternoon tea in front of them.  One of the children had eyes as big as saucers but all the adults were being very careful not to stare at us.

It felt really weird.  Not that I want people asking a million questions, but it just seems strange to catch up with people and talk about all sorts of things...yet not mention the biggest thing that has happened in my life.  I have a child with a disability.  I don't know - maybe its just me, but I find it strange when people don't acknowledge Ashlea's disabilities or the 'bigness' of disability (excuse my poor English there - bigness just seemed the right word). 

The other thing about the afternoon was the disabled access at the venue.  BAD.  I am going to name and shame them (Drummoyne Sports Club) and hope like anything that they never track me down and sue me!  Maybe I should write them a letter as well, because it just wasn't good enough.  They had a ramp into the club for disabled patrons to use - it even had a sign hung across it saying it was for disabled patrons only.  The only problem was that someone had tied the sign to the two railings on either side of the path meaning that you had to climb over or under the sign to get up the ramp.  I had to lean Ashlea's pram right back to slide her underneath - all very well for us but if you were an adult in a wheelchair it would have been pretty frustrating and undignified.  When we made it to the top of the ramp we discovered that the doors could only be opened from the inside - so you have to stand around outside until someone sees you and lets you in.  Again for us it wasn't a huge deal, but if you were an adult in a wheelchair I imagine it would get quite frustrating constantly coming up against these barriers.

9 comments:

Lacey said...

I don't like it when people say nothing either, it just means they are to scared to say something. I don't want people to be scared, I want them to ask questions!

ferfischer said...

UGH! How frustrating! It certainly depends on my mood how I would respond to that. I might start chattering on about her and her "stuff" so that they can start to talk about it, taking a lead from me. Or, I might do what you did. The poor kids, I wonder if they were instructed not to say anything, because most kids ask! And I would totally write a letter regarding the access - what good is handicapped access if you can't access it? Ugh ugh ugh!

Anna said...

Yeah, I hate it when people say nothing! It is almost as bad as them saying something really offensive-at least you can correct them!
As for the club and the disabled access-that is awful. I would definately considering writing a letter too.

Susan, Mum to Molly said...

Oh Alison, I'm so sorry. This post struck a huge chord with me.

It gave me goosebumps and flashbacks to a disastrous trip to Perth 3 years ago (for two whole weeks, including the anniversary of Molly's injury, all of my in-laws said NOTHING)...

I HATE people who say nothing. People who say the wrong thing (e.g. "You have the worst life of anyone I know, how can you still smile?") make me angry, but I definitely think saying nothing is worse.

Do you really think they were trying to be politically correct?? I think they're just morons (oops... are they likely to read this??)

At the height of my anger over what happened to Molly I used to think: 'geez, I'm the one living it - the least you can f-ing do is string together two words to say to me'.

I'm also sorry that 'our local' was so unwelcoming (we live about 500m from DSC, not that we've ever been there... LOL).

Take care, Susan

Alison said...

OK - so I'm obviously not alone on this one! Susan that trip to your ILs sounds awful. I think it is far worse when it is people close to you who don't acknowledge the situation. These were people I haven't seen for ages and won't see again for ages so it wasn't hurtful - just strange. I think the closer someone is to you when they don't acknowledge it the more painful.

Sarah said...

I agree it is very unusual for so called friends to avoid asking or talking about your life now.

Marie said...

I agree. Saying nothing is weird but I also try to cut those folks some slack. They probably did not know what was okay to say or ask. I think sometimes WE need to bring it up and let them know it's okay to ask. I like saying nothing better than saying really really stupid things or assuming they know all about it.

Alison said...

Marie - I was just talking to someone about that today - that we need to bring up the topic and let people know it is OK to talk about it.

Its such a balancing act - we hate people saying stupid things and we hate people saying nothing - but I guess they say nothing because they don't want to say something stupid!

n0thingbuteverything said...

Alison, the words in your last comment are so wise. It's just so hard to get any comments right. I hate it when people say nothing, I hate it when people say stupid things, I hate it when people say incredibly patronising things....it's definitely difficult for people to find the exact right thing to say ;-). But wow, isn't it wonderful when someone gets it perfectly right???

Boo hiss to the poor accessibility you faced!! I've come across the inaccessible accessible entry in the past. Really frustrating!