About three months ago, I started a brand new job. I love my job, the people I work with, the location… all of it. Working in a big building downtown wasn’t something I ever thought I’d do again, but I’m thrilled to be where I am. Jenny and I have been welcomed with open arms by colleagues, managers, building regulars, fellow transit passengers… just about everyone.
But working in a big crowded building also brings to the forefront something every disabled person has dealt with at one time or another: the grabbers. Sure, I’ve dealt with them before in other jobs or other places, but working in a very large building open to the public 5 days a week puts me in touch with many amazing people… and many grabbers.
And you know what?
I’m done being nice to grabbers.
Over the span of the past month, I’ve had numerous encounters with someone (several someones) who thinks that grabbing my body to direct me is acceptable. My shoulders have been turned to direct me, someone steered me by the waist, my hands and arms have been grabbed so frequently (and at one point so hard) that I swear I can still feel marks on my body from the other person’s fingers. Depending on the situation, the closeness of quarters, and the willingness of the other party to observe both visual and verbal queues, my reaction is situationally specific, made in a split second, when I’m not stunned motionless and speechless by someone’s lack of personal boundaries.
But why should I have to think about it? Why should I need to make judgment calls on an appropriate reaction on a frequent basis simply because I have a disability and people get weirded out about it? Why should I have to be nice because someone “meant well”? Meaning well means asking first. Meaning well means listening to my response. Meaning well means not doing something that would reasonably get one punched, kicked, screamed at or sprayed in the face if the action was directed at anyone without a disability.
And think I’m exaggerating?
A blind friend on a facebook discussion on this very topic “only gets rudely grabbed twice a week or so.”
There is no ONLY!
This behavior is unacceptable. We can all agree that able-bodied people aren’t frequently grabbed, manhandled, pushed, prodded, or otherwise bodily manipulated. We can all agree that such behavior is wrong. So why does disability make it right? The fact that it happens so frequently to people with visible physical disabilities that we think it “only” happens twice a week or so should appall you. The only time to grab someone is if they are actually falling and you need to catch them, or you need to pull them back from real danger (like an oncoming bus a split second away). That does not happen twice a week or so.
My tongue bleeds sometimes from my biting all of this back, from keeping quiet, from being nice. If I had fingernails, the palm of my right hand would have half-moon shaped scars from clenching my fist in my pocket. But I’m done bleeding and scarring because of my own desire to blend in, to simply go about my day. Grabbers, you are the problem, and I’m done taking out my frustration on myself. I’m done being nice because being nice has gotten me – and society – nowhere. So your intentions don’t matter; keep your hands to yourself. I’m taking my equality into my own hands. A woman without a disability can fend off an attack? Your firm grip on my hand, wrist, arm, shoulder, hips, waist, or mobility aid without my knowledge or consent is an attack, and I will respond accordingly. If grabbing me is your way to ensure my safety, I plan on learning and training and finding out how I can keep myself safe… from you. You don’t ask me if I want your help; you think you can and should decide for me. That decision is not yours to make.
I hear ya! I am blind too. I hate hate grabbers! I am sorry this sort of thing happens to you too.
Reblogged this on Therapy Bits and commented:
Remember the next time you meet a blind person, we are human, don’t grab or manhandle us, treat us with the same respect you would treat an able bodied person.
I’ve been so lucky with this lately (working with a small group that knows me really helps) but when I frequented more crowded areas, I got this all the time. Mostly it was annoying, but sometimes it was genuinely frightening. I’m sorry it’s happening to you with such regularity and I think your anger is justified. I hope some self-defence training will help make you safer, but it won’t make it any easier to handle emotionally. I wish I had some sage advice for forcing able people to get it, but so far I haven’t found the magic words that will make them realize they’re being incredibly rude. Hopefully this post will change even one person’s perspective.
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Thanks, my friend 🙂
I DO think that learning (well, re-learning) ways to physically defend myself WILL make it easier emotionally, for the simple reason that I would know what to do. So even though the emotional component will still be there, the feeling of helplessness won’t be. 🙂
Alright, here we go. Let’s try and respond to both sides of the coin here. Firstly, I completely and totally understand where you’re going, I’ve been there too all be it not having it happen to me quite as frequently, and I’ll say straight off that I mean no offense in what I’m about to say here, but it’s direct and to the point, so here goes. As I said, I’m gonna respond to both sides of the coin here, so let’s break this post down a little.
*working in a big crowded building also brings to the forefront something every disabled person has dealt with at one time or another: the grabbers.* Again, completely understandable. Unfortunately, it’s that way with damn near every crowded building we may find, because of the many people that are present in said buildings, there are undoubtedly many people who, as the majority will do, underestimate us. It’s unfortunate, but it’s a fact. we’re the minority here, and we therefore must educate the majority, like it or not. Another example is that there are those people who inadvertently speak louder to us than other simply because they get the wrong idea and think that blindness conditions must also come with deafness. Call that bothersome, but you know what? They’re partially right! You may not have it happen to you, I don’t because my blindness condition never cam with degenerative hearing loss, but there are those rare blindness conditions that *do* cause hearing loss as well, whether it be later on in life or immediately. Because I know that, I keep that in mind should someone get the wrong idea and start speaking unusually louder, which I can honestly say hasn’t happened to me all that much. There’s two common assumptions that are at both extremes. Hearing loss, or superior hearing. Both are true among the many blind people in the world, but those are the only common assumptions you’ll find, nothing in between. Someone gets the wrong idea, you just politely correct them. The same can applies for the grabbers. The slight difference here is that there is only *one* assumption and not two, and that is that the blind are always reliant. It’s generally the same idea though. They get the wrong idea, and react as such. The best you can do is educate them. Sure, get pushy if they’re getting way out of hand, while trying to be civil at the same time. I e, push them off without raging at them.
*Grabbers, you are the problem, and I’m done taking out my frustration on myself. I’m done being nice because being nice has gotten me – and society – nowhere.*
Ok, now that’s where you’re wrong, and, no offense, but *becoming* part of the problem. Sure, grabbing is unreasonable. I get it. I wish it didn’t happen either. I’ve tried fending it off myself, and I can say it’s might be gottenting me nowhere fast. In that case, since it happens to me with generally the same people, the best I can do is know that that person means good intentions, and not *rely* on the help. As long as people don’t get way out of hand about it, it’s fine. Even so, if someone was getting out of hand, again I would be pushy with them but also try to educate at the same time. But whenever you can, you should always educate first, or when you get the opportunity. It pays dividends. You want to talk about how we were dealt a bad hand, how we are in a difficult situation? I’ll agree with you 100%, but I’ve got news for you. The rest of thhe world is probably presented with a situation just as difficult. Think about it. At present, there is no universal disability awareness class in school. There is nothing about what to do in encounters with disabled students that is taught on a large scale. There is nothing in drivers ed classes about dealing with disabled pedestrians that I am aware of. Should there be? Absolutely! If the opportunity was there, I’d be one of the first to advocate for that and to make it clear that it is a need. But for now, they’re isn’t. So as it stands, we must educate people, one person at a time, and until something miraculous such as what’s described above happens, there is nothing else we can do on a large scale. Deal.
Saying that *all the grabbers are the problem* is pretty much the reverse of what their stereotype about blind people are, and that! is what gets us nowhere, in fact I’ve got a feeling it may be pushing back inclusion more than it would be pushing it ahead. I mean look at those few words you just said, the grabbers are the problem. And you are referring to whom? I’d say more than half of all the sighted folks! I swear, we complain about being judged for our disability which is definitely something to complain about, but then we go and judge others because of encounters with grabbers? I’m sorry if the truth hurts, but that’s as hypocritical as it gets! In most cases people are simply trying to help, and don’t know how. Yes, people can come across as rude, but they are not, trying, to be rude, at least most of the time. Now if someone’s a cling-on and does it all the time, even if you’ve educated them, now that’s when you show them what for and tell them you’re not ok with what they’re doing. Like I said before, most people are not educated as to how to deal with a person with a disability, and how bout this? Not only are people uneducated about dealing with people with disabilities, most people have never met! a person with a disability, and the only way they’ve been introduced to the disabled world is through the so-called representations of people with disabilities in the movies, 😠 and how the media portrays them. Has that one ever occurred to you? So after pondering that, now put yourself in the situation of a sighted person for a moment. Ask yourself, if you were that sighted person in that situation, and hypothetically you encountered a person with a disability, would you know what to do? What *would* you do? What would you think if that person actually educated you, such as, for example, showing you human guide/sighted guide, and you knew that for the next blind person you encountered? On the other hand, what would you do if they not were just completely rude about it and pushed you off? Even more so, what would you do if they then went online and went on a rampage about their experience on a blog or on social media? Ok, back to reality. Before you go criticizing the grabbers, get that through your head. Keep in mind the hand they were dealt, which in this case they were dealt a bad hand, in a world that was never built for the disabled from the ground up, and has a long way to go before such can be accomplished. Think about the fact that the way they get educated most of the time is by meeting one person at a time. They say first impressions are everything, and in this case its true. Is someone gets a bad first impression when meeting a person with a disability, what do you think their view of the disabled community will be? How willing will they be to help people in the future when someone actually *does* need help?
My shoulders have been turned to direct me, someone steered me by the waist, my hands and arms have been grabbed so frequently (and at one point so hard) that I swear I can still feel marks on my body from the other person’s fingers.
Ok, that one I can empathize on. I must admit I was never grabbed that hard, but if they’re that forceful, then that is actually ridiculous. Most people aren’t like that, but some unfortunately are, and that is a prime example of when to not hesitate to push them off, no question. I’m sure I’d do the same thing if I was in that situation. So do that. Stand up for youself, show them what for. Show that person only, and other similar people that do that, that you won’t stand for that. Still, don’t come back online and post a tirade about grabbers all over social media. That, is what gets us nowhere. Dealing with one person at a time, until something miraculously happens universally, is the best we can do at this point. Why not start now? Why not write a less harshly worded blog post about what people should do when they encounter you or other people with disabilities? Why not have several people do that? That is far more productive than railing against them on social media, that I can be sure of. Ok, rant over, but keep this all in mind! Wanna constructively tare that post apart in a comment? Go ahead, I’ll take it, but note I did say constructive. I’ve got no problem with constructive criticism, but I won’t take any destructive criticism. I’ll just leave you with this tweet that I give credit to because of it being pretty much direct to the point, and that, while I had the same mindset I used parts of as inspiration for this post, but this is basically another version of what I just said.
Jack, I’m guessing from your screen name and your comment that you are male–in which case, your experience is likely to have been very different from Blindbeader’s, Meagan’s and mine. In our Western society, even sighted women are touched, grabbed, approached and encroached on. Our objections or protests are more likely to be overridden or ignored, and refusal to accept help taken much more negatively. I don’t doubt you’ve had similar experiences, but I suspect the frequency and intensity may differ.
I think you make a good point that it’s better to educate than to react negatively when possible. But there are only so many hours in a day, and sometimes we just need to get where we’re going and do what we need to do. And as Blindbeader pointed out, the information is out there. Sometimes a sharp “What you’re doing is not okay.” is what it takes for information to sink in.
And sometimes, you just need to have a good rant! Well ranted, Blindbeader!
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I have a HUGE problem with many of these comments, for a wide variety of reasons.
1) In western society, we’re taught that you do not touch or grab or manhandle someone – women, in particular – without their consent. I am a woman with a disability. I don’t deserve that same right? And if I stand up and demand it, like any non-disabled woman, I’m being hypocritical? Newsflash: Other’s perceived good intentions don’t keep you safe.
2) You can tell me what’s worked best for you, how that’s worked best, and why. I’m happy for you, I truly am, but don’t you dare tell me that I’m wrong and need to accept that the prejudices of society haven’t caught up. You know why? When I tell people – some of whom have never encountered a disabled person before me – about being touched, grabbed, or otherwise bodily manipulated, they are horrified at the intrusion of personal space. THEY believe I deserve the right to walk down the street, enter a large office building, take an elevator, without being catcalled, leered at, or grabbed. If THEY believe I – and other disabled people – deserve this respect, why should I not demand it?
3) The rest of your commentary, frankly, was a fine example of missing my points entirely. Believe it or not, I’m all about educating how to positively interact with people with disabilities. And as for your suggestion about writing such articles, do a google search for them; they’re everywhere, and nothing’s changed. My adding one more to the vast array of them will be about as effective as you seem to think this current blog post is.
I’ll leave you with one further piece of commentary. You said first impressions are everything. I agree. If my first impression of someone is of their fingers on my body, it’s not a favorable one. I will use anything at my disposal, (a tone, a quick movement, an elbow) to keep myself safe. You know why? Two reasons:. (1) I have that right as a human being on planet earth. and (2) MY first impression of someone matters equally as much as theirs of me. Go ahead, tell me how I don’t live in the real world.
I don’t get this a lot, because I’m usually with someone when I go out. But it happens. I’ve been grabbed by the shoulders and steered around an obstacle I knew was there and would have found with my cane anyway. I’ve had someone grab my hand to show me something. It’s disconcerting at best, and if I’m walking it can be dangerous, because it disrupts my concentration. It can also be downright scary, especially coming out of nowhere.
At a party or social situation like church, I have no objection to people *touching* my arm or hand so that I know they’re talking to me and not the person next to or behind me. But there’s no need to grab, and no need to cling to my hand like it’s a lifeline for the entire conversation. Yes, that’s happened.
I appreciate that people want to help, don’t always know what to do, and are doing the best they can. But grabbing is not okay. Steering or “helping” someone without asking or respecting “no” is not okay. I don’t know how to get that through to people. Ha! Maybe someone should fund a series of PSAs…
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grabbers are the last thing we really need to be dealing with. For years I was always taught that to gage distance as to how far or how close I’m sitting to someone I should reach out and touch someone on the arm or shoulder although it is a good idea to ask first or at the very least give the person a heads up about it just in case they scare easily. This being because I sometimes talk louder than I should without realizing it. I make people aware of this each class I am in or each group I’m in or I join. If I’m ever in danger it would sometimes be easy for somebody to pull me out of harm’s way however not great if I wasn’t expecting it as I’d need to try and have my cane handy to prevent me from knocking into something it’s a tricky one to get ones head around but all I can say is that it does sometimes happen and we just have to work on strategies of how to respond without flipping our lid and without being passive and just thinking nothing of it
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I don’t mind if I’m in a crowd and someone I know touches my shoulder when they are coming or going, or otherwise indicates proximity… but much of the grabbers I reference here are people who I don’t know, will never see again. People who work with me or see me on a regular basis have generally been awesome, and if something DOES come up have been respectful and wanted to learn. 🙂
As for the PSAs, maybe we can crowdfund such a thing? Perhaps those who are all about educating will chip in a few bucks? 🙂