Saturday, October 6, 2007

On guilt and honor -by association....

The question of the day on USA Today is : Should Marion Jones' relay team members have to forfeit their medals?

The majority of people (a narrow majority) say no. I realize that her times were counted in their victory, so as much as I think guilt by association (and the opposite, honor by association), can be taken too far at times, I think it's important to consider that, had she done a slower time, the entire team would not have won. Just my opinion.

So what about this guilt by association thing? The converse of that, although it's not a term as frequently used, is honor by association. I think it's something that needs to be discussed in the disability community. Sometimes I think people assume that because we share disability in common, we're not going to disagree on subjects. That's just not true. The disability community is a large and diverse group and its members not only belong to other groups (such as political and religious), but have different experiences. And those experiences affect our views on topics.

Some of these experiences may depend on factors like class or race. What do I mean by that? I know some pwd whose life is nothing like mine, but have the same disability - quadriplegia. One friend is independently wealthy, married and his life looks entirely different than mine- from the outside. His experiences vary accordingly and we have very different opinions on things.

When he goes into his favorite restaurant in town, he tips one hundred dollars. He never has trouble getting a table, nor does he get put into the corner. At least not in that restaurant. And this doesn't mean he doesn't know about the kinds of problems faced by others because whenever he goes out to places where people don't associate him like that, I'm sure he's experienced issues. However, he certainly encounters fewer issues than others. And on the topic of honor by association, when I go out with him, I get the best table too. So who we socialize with, for example, even if they are people with disabilities, can give us a point of view that may or may not be accurate for countless other people with disabilities.

The point is when we sit and discuss topics relating to the disablity community, my friend's point of view is that he rarely encounters access issues. Yet he doesn't usually go out alone and even uses a driver at times, who scouts out places to see if they are accessible. He calls it 'planning ahead' but it is a luxury most can't afford.

It's not always this obvious - or cut and dry - but the reality is that a dialogue on these issues could be a worthwhile thing. Have you experienced times when knowing someone or having money has allowed you to avoid discrimination or access issues that someone with a disability without those resources might encounter? Or, on the other hand, do you fall into a group where you don't have 'access to' these things? Should we be discussing entitlement within the disability community as a factor that affects our experience? And if so what kind of power does that entitlement confer on those of us who have more, have better mobility and access to more resources? In what ways can we choose to use it? How does that entitlement skew our awareness - or not - of issues?

Because, let's face it, I'm not saying people who have better resources lack awareness of the issues - at least not all of them. But it can create a veil of denial for some. And that denial can be dangerous because it can lead to the impression that we're closer to inclusion than we are.

I think the Olympic committee can handle the decision on the track team. But our community needs to start addressing how we intend to address inclusion - for all its members, not just some.

1 comment:

goldchair said...

I think this is a topic we should be discussing because sometimes when I talk about the ADA Restoration Act, I find a lack of awareness among my friends who already have jobs (pwd). I point out that many people haven't been able to get jobs and there can be a sense of I did it so if they try they can do it where they ignore barriers still in the way for some. This is worse when it comes from pwd.