old flyer for a bike-a-thon that refers to people with disabilities as the 'r' word

When an Old Flyer Reminded Me How Far We’ve Come With the ‘R’ Word

63
63

Long ago (long, long ago) when I was 12 or 13, my friend, Sue, and I participated in a Bike-A-Thon. We met up with a couple of friends, Joe and Ron, who were also participating. I remember it being a lot of fun, with the exception of Susan smashing into and ruining Ron’s bike gears. We had so much fun that we went around the route twice (much to the dismay of the people who pledged by the mile — I was young; this did not occur to me at the time).

For years afterward, I tried to remember what this Bike-A-Thon was for. What cause were we supporting? No one I asked could remember either.

As an adult, when I think back on it, yes we had fun, but I’m horrified this organization thought it was OK for a bunch of 12- and 13-year-olds to ride their bikes down these very busy main roads. It wasn’t like it is today; roads weren’t closed or even sections roped off. We were on our own on these busy main roads, most with no sidewalks or shoulders, until we came upon a check point. But this is the way it was. We didn’t think a thing about it back then.

Well, Susan was cleaning out her mother’s attic a week or two ago and found the actual map of the course we took on this Bike-A-Thon, and on it was the name of the Bike-A-Thon.

Backing up for just a minute. This morning I read an article that had the R-word in its title. It was a good article and I wanted to share it (I eventually did), but I was so apprehensive about the R-word in the title. It needed to be there, it really did, but I’m so uncomfortable with it that I really thought a lot about it before sharing it. (If you have a moment, please read it here. It’s worth the time.)

Having said that, below is the map my friend found. She was just as apprehensive about sending it to me as I am sharing it here.

old flyer for a bike-a-thon that refers to people with disabilities as the 'r' word

My heart skipped a few beats when I first saw it. I sat on it for a few weeks, but I thought that if you’re as appalled as I was (and still am) at reading the name of the Bike-A-Thon, then let’s look at it as a glowing example of how times really have changed. It’s so hard for me to believe that back then, this and a few other words I’m guilty of using as a child were just OK. We didn’t know any better back then. Now we certainly should know.

I have gotten into plenty of discussions over the use of this word. Most of the discussions have been with people who really didn’t understand what the problem was as long as they weren’t using it to disparage someone with a special need – but they are! They’re using it as slang for “stupid.” They’re taking a word that was once used as an actual diagnosis and using it to describe “stupid.” I really don’t get why this is so hard to explain to people.

A version of this post originally appeared on Taking It a Step at a Time — Autism.

Do you have a story about your experience with disability or disease? Maybe a moment that made a big impact on you? Please send it to [email protected] and include a photo for the story, a photo of yourself and a 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our “Share Your Story” page for more about our submission guidelines.

Want to end the stigma around disability? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

63
63

RELATED VIDEOS

TOPICS
,
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

When 4 People Tested My Faith in Humanity, 3 People Restored It

2k
2k

Dear Humanity,

10408738_10152855755647483_6580888712707983659_n A few days ago I experienced various situations where the behavior of fellow humans discouraged me. It all really got to me. But I want you to know I’m not giving up on you.

I attended my sister’s college graduation the other day. I was the beaming proud big sister anxiously walking into the packed university center with my 4-year-old and 8-year-old sons in tow. We made our way up the ramp, and my 4-year-old held the door for me as I pushed my 8-year-old in his shiny wheelchair. We stepped inside to find hundreds upon hundreds of people hurriedly walking to their seats, so we quickly slipped into the bustling line. It was then that my love for humanity was tested…

To the man who thought it was OK to jump in front of me while I pushed a 70-pound wheelchair with a sweet little boy in it and then get upset when I touched your leg with the chair’s footrest, I’m sorry I bumped into you. I’m sorry you felt the urgency to make your way in front of me because obviously having to walk behind me and my 4-year-old son was just unacceptable. I’m sorry you turned around and glared at me when the chair skimmed your pant leg. I’m sorry you scoffed at my apology. But what I’m most sorry about was that my wide-eyed 4-year-old witnessed you do this. I don’t want him for one second to think it’s acceptable to rudely force himself in front of someone else or laugh at apologies. The world doesn’t revolve around him — or you for that matter.

To the lady who stared at me with her “ugh” face as I gave my son his 15 medications through his feeding tube in the corner, I’m sorry you had to see this. I’m sorry you had to see a teeny, tiny glimpse into my life of special needs. I’m sorry you felt the need to stretch your neck over the side of the banister so you could peek at the monstrosity of a feeding tube while you told the person next to you to also look.  But what I’m most sorry about is that there’s a possibility one of my sons saw you staring at us with your “ugh” face. I don’t want my children thinking it’s OK for them to gawk at others and their differences. No one is inferior to them — or you for that matter.

To the lady who told us to “pick up and hold him so my daughter can sit down,” I’m sorry you felt you and your daughter were more worthy of a seat than my sonI’m sorry you didn’t ask this in a courteous way because I would have gladly picked up my son so your daughter could sit down. I’m sorry that when we did move you didn’t say “Thank you” and that you just expected us to give into your demands. But what I’m most sorry about is that my 4-year-old witnessed you being extremely rude, disrespectful and demanding. I’m teaching my children to treat others with respect no matter who they are or what the situation is. Courtesy is not below them — or you for that matter.

To the crowd of people who thought it was OK to stand in the middle of the sidewalk as I patiently stood with my children waiting for you all to step aside, I’m sorry you had to move your conversation so we could pass. I’m sorry I couldn’t just walk in the grass to go around your discussion, which was directly in the path of hundreds of others, too. I’m sorry it was muddy that day and wheelchair wheels don’t take kindly to mud. I’m sorry you got upset when I said, “Excuse us!” as I tried passing you. But what I’m most sorry about is that my kids, along with the long line of others behind me, saw this play out. I don’t want my boys to think they can take over any space and then be rude to another human being. It isn’t all about them — or you for that matter.

How can my children rationalize what I’m teaching them when they see grown adults do everything I tell them not to? I want my kids to love others more than they love themselves. I want them to be humble. I want them to enjoy making others happy. But above all else, I want them to be kind.

Fortunately, my boys are provided with everyday instances where they encounter people who display respect and love for one another.

To the manager at the grocery store who saw me pushing my son’s wheelchair while pulling a cart full of groceries throughout the store to finally stand in line behind six others with a child needing suctioning every few minutes, thank you. Thank you for opening a free checkout lane and ringing up my groceries yourself. Thank you for acknowledging the two-hour feat I’d just accomplished all while having to attend to my son’s secretions. Thank you for acting upon your desire to help me in my time of exhaustion. But most of all, thank you for displaying kindness and empathy in plain sight for everyone to see — especially my observant little boys.

10306390_10101227470461654_3416261381878903779_n To the little boy who happily approached my boys at the park and asked them to come play, thank you. Thank you for your acceptance of my son and his brothers. Thank you for reminding me there are indeed children out there who just want another kid to play with, no matter who they are or what they look like. Thank you for having parents who instilled love and acceptance of others into your beautiful, little heart. But most of all, thank you for looking beyond this big, bulky, blue wheelchair and seeing the child sitting in it with playful eyes.

To the older lady walking past my family at my 4-year-old’s T-ball game at the exact moment my older son spilled his drink all over himself and his brother’s chair, thank you. Thank you for taking the time to stop on your way to your seat to bring us extra napkins and help me wipe down the wheelchair. Thank you for giving a kind smile to my boys as you made small talk about what they were planning to do this summer. Thank you for placing your hand upon mine and saying, “Looks like you’re doing a great job, Mom.” But most of all, thank you for allowing my children to observe your caring, cheerful spirit as you helped someone in need.

This is what gives me hope for humanity.

Let’s stop living to please ourselves, and let’s practice love instead of anger. We live in this world together and have a long way to go. So in the mean time, I’ll be here trying to teach my children to love and respect others with a kind smile as I hold onto hope. Don’t worry humanity, I’m not giving up on you.

Sincerely,

A hopeful momma

A shorter version of this post originally appeared on My Blessed Little Nest.

Want to end the stigma around disabilityLike us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

2k
2k
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

The Unique Challenges of Being a Woman of Color and Disabled

78
78

When I look in the mirror, I see someone whom society deems as disposable: I am Black, disabled, female and poor. When people see me, they automatically judge who I am, what I am capable of, and my worthiness before they hear me speak or know my name. Every day, I battle racism, sexism, ableism, classism and ignorance; yet somehow, I wake up every morning hopeful that my existence will make a difference in the world through the advocacy work I began almost two years ago.

How can I possess such a hopeful, positive mentality and spirit when the world bombards me nonstop with messages, images and actions that tell me people who look like me “do not matter”? I decided one day that I do matter, and the negative, hurtful ideals about who I am did not. If I wanted to love the person, body and life I saw in the mirror, I had to stop internalizing the hatefulness of the world around me, and start demanding that the world accepted my disability and personhood.

One action that helped to increase my self-love was becoming a disability advocate, and making it a priority to connect with other like-minded advocates who were as passionate about the issues that mattered to me. However, when I began looking around the disability community, I felt like a black pepper flake in the midst of a sea of salt: Where were all the disabled women of color, particularly disabled Black women?  Though we as a collective group faced similar struggles when it comes to combating ableism, the unique challenges of being a woman of color and disabled cannot be ignored.

Within the Black community, I felt different because of my disability status; within the disabled community, my blackness made me stand out like a sore thumb. I knew if I wanted to feel included within this community, I needed to create a support system with other disabled Black women and women of color. That need helped to shape my advocacy work, which birthed my organization, Ramp Your Voice!

Establishing this poignant niche of intersectionality helped to empower myself in ways I did not foresee. When I began to connect with other disabled Black women and women of color, a sisterly bond formed. I finally interacted with women who not only looked like me, but also endured similar struggles because of the identities they held. Words cannot accurately capture the deep level of understanding and support one feels when you find people who “get” you. When you share stories about overcoming misunderstandings of who you are based on your race, gender and disability with people who have had identical situations in their own lives, it validates your experiences and existence.

That is what I have experienced with my Disabled Sistas: validation, appreciation and love. The friendships that has flourished with these women are invaluable, and are undeniably special to me. Bonding with my disabled sisters, and other advocates I have befriended, has enabled me to become unapologetic and fearless when speaking out against the societal and systemic “-isms,” and discriminatory tactics that seek to hold me back instead of build me up. The support of my disabled friends pushes me to keep my head up.

I am incredibly proud of the reflection staring back at me – a beautiful, perfectly imperfect human being who is extraordinary capable and worthy of more than I may give myself credit for. Though my disability and other identities compose a great deal of who and what I am, I have the power to define and redefine what disability, blackness and womanhood means to me. I am no longer limited by my identities because I refuse to accept society’s ideas concerning them; my friendships and advocacy work has equipped me to shatter those misconceptions by simply being myself. I am enough, and that is all that I need to remember whenever an “ism” attempts to stymie my progress or devalue my worth.

Challenges are temporary roadblocks, but how you react to setbacks will become permanently ingrained in your psyche. No matter what you may be encountering presently, disabled sisters, always keep your head up, and be proud of the woman in the mirror.

To my disabled sisters with love,

Vilissa

vilissa thompson

This post originally appeared on Ramp Your Voice!

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: What’s one secret about your or your loved one’s disability and/or disease that no one talks about? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post [email protected] include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

Want to end the stigma around disability? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

78
78
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Jimmy Kimmel Gives Better Prize to 'Price Is Right' Contestant in Wheelchair Who Won a Treadmill

2k
2k

You may remember Danielle Perez from her appearance this week on “The Price is Right,” which has since gone viral. Perez, who uses a wheelchair, won a treadmill on the show.

The comedian from Los Angeles handled the prize with grace and humor. Then she was invited to appear on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” where she was offered another, much better prize.

Kimmel is sending Perez on a wheelchair-accessible international cruise.

Check out the video below to see Perez win her prize: 

Want to end the stigma around disabilityLike us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

2k
2k
TOPICS
,
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

The Latest Inclusive Playground to Open Is All Kinds of Magical

814
814

The Magical Bridge Playground, an innovative new playground designed to be socially inclusive and open to all ages and abilities, is open for playtime in Palo Alto, California.

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 2.38.12 PM
Via the Magical Bridge Facebook page

Olenka Villareal came up with the idea for an accessible, inclusive playground when she realized she would have to drive out of town and pay $150 each time her son, who has a developmental disability, wanted to play at the park, KTVU reported.

Where are they playing?” Villareal said, according to KTVU. “Where are those children using a wheelchair, children using a walker, a blind child, where are they going to play and be part of their community?”

Six years and nearly $4 million later, the Magical Bridge Playground officially opened Saturday, April 18. It features a variety of innovative play equipment suited for all ages and abilities. “Our hope is to create awareness that today’s park designs are overlooking so many: the growing autistic population, visually and hearing impaired, physically limited and even our aging community,” the project says on its website.

Magical Bridge features wheelchair-accessible merry-go-rounds, a magical laser harp that emits sound when imaginary strings are plucked and extra-wide swings and slides. The playground is also built on an entirely smooth surface to remain accessible for wheelchairs and walkers, according to Good News Network.

Aerial view
Aerial view of the park via the Magical Bridge Facebook page
Blue surface
Via the Magical Bridge Facebook page
Equipment
Via the Magical Bridge Facebook page
Wheelchair
Via the Magical Bridge Facebook page

It’s much harder to build community if you have a special needs child,” Sarah Lundgren, who has a 16-year-old son who is blind, says in the video below. “To have a place where… our kids with special needs can come and be welcomed — and celebrated, really, not just welcomed — is a huge value.”

Learn more about the exciting new playground and hear from more of its first visitors in the video below.

To learn more about Magical Bridge, visit the project’s website and Facebook page.

h/t Good News Network

Want to celebrate the human spirit? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

814
814
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

When My Daughter Asked Me Why People Always Stare at Her

199
199

When Zoe was little, I spent a lot of time thinking  (and writing) about about how different she was. Through her grade school years, Zoe blossomed with the encouragement to try and do her best. I made sure she was always included and treated just like everyone else.

Zoe will be starting sixth grade next year. She is growing into who she is meant to be. Zoe is quick to laugh and smile, and she’s full of pre-teen sass.

I have always maintained my own set of rules for mothering Zoe. Many of them involve not making a big deal about her disabilities within our family… even in small ways.

When she was in preschool, I still carried her from the front door to the car, and as she grew, I began grimacing from the strain of lifting her. Realizing this one day, I resolved to not let Zoe see, and wanted to find a different way to do things. Open family discussions about outings, which car we are taking and the choice between Zoe’s wheelchair or walker remain private between my husband and me. We know what a hassle it is to strategically plan for parking and other challenges that arise—but I don’t want Zoe to know. I never want her to feel like she is too much trouble or effort.

Yet, suddenly, my smart and sensitive girl sees everything. The way I huff and puff pushing her wheelchair up the hills on the walking path through our neighborhood… as she alternates her comments between, “Are you okay, Mom, pushing me? Are you sure?” and “Give it MORE muscle, Mom!” On a recent afternoon trip to the mall, she weighed the excitement of window shopping against accepting the fact that “people will look at me!”

The other day, I held her hands and we traveled up the stairs at our neighborhood park. She smiled as she led me onto the play structure, my hands supporting hers, providing balance where she has none of her own. And I heard her say softly to herself, “It’s okay if they look at me, this is funnnnnn.”

So I wasn’t too surprised when Zoe asked me the other night why people always stare at her. “When?” I asked, curious. “Where?” “Everywhere, all the time,” came her easy reply. Then “Kids… a lot.”

“Hmm,” I began, buying some time, biting my lip. “I suppose they stare at you because they are curious. You’re cute,” I added, tickling her. “And maybe, because they don’t know you, haven’t seen you before…” My voice faded, as I reached for the right words I would have to say next.

“Do people ever stare at you?” Zoe asked. “Yes!” I began, excitedly. “Sometimes they are surprised that I am so tall, and they look at me longer, noticing that.” I paused then, unsure which words to use to explain to my daughter just how insensitive strangers can be.

“It’s because you’re different, Mom.”That’s why they look at you.”

And I looked at her knowing… what she already knew.

girl in a wheelchair

This post originally appeared on Special Needs Mom.

Want to end the stigma around disability? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

199
199
TOPICS
,
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Real People. Real Stories.

7,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.