Friday, August 21, 2009

Quadriplegic Dumping: Watch what you say about quads, please

Tom DeLay now claims that quadriplegics on gurneys were dumped in front of his podium at town hall meetings in the '80s, claiming this has been going on at health care town hall meetings "forever".

This article thinks DeLay has had a memory lapse, noting a May 1996 article about an ADAPT protest that he could be mixing this up with, which is a far different thing .

It begins like this:

"Groups of protesters, most of them in wheelchairs, barricaded two local political offices Tuesday to demand changes in the way disabled people receive care in America. ... A second group of about 150 ADAPT supporters blockaded and occupied U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay's office in Sugar Land [Texas], until DeLay agreed to meet with them. "

And continues:

"Tuesday's protesters narrowly escaped arrest by Stafford police when DeLay, who is in Washington, D.C., agreed to meet with them next month."

First of all, his claim feeds into peoples' comments about how anyone with a disability who dares to speak up at a health care town meeting is a setup, as if people with disabilities should not have an opinion or, if they express one, someone told them what to say. There's always that passive element involved, as in someone bringing them in - i.e. dumping them- not attributing self determination to our actions.

If you think that assumption isn't a big deal, take a moment and ponder how this waters down our opinions if people take a look, see a disability and assume we are fed our opinions. And by the way, this assumes all of us with disabilities think the same way, which is laughable if you've spent any time among us.

Secondly, this is typical of the ableist tendency to remain ignorant about the differences in disability. Any two people in a power chair have different disabilities, although they may look the same to someone who is ignorant about disability. Even if this claim by DeLay was true, it's incredible to think that someone went out, recruited all quadriplegics, put them on gurneys and brought them in. Did they raid local nursing homes to find enough quads? Not to mention, most quadriplegics on gurneys are only on those because they can't afford a wheelchair.

Just an FYI for anyone who thinks we live on gurneys.

So taking the name of quadriplegics in vain appears to be a story behind the story here that most likely will garner no attention. I'm tired of these passive characterizations of quadriplegics and angry that those of us who work so hard to get rid of myths and assumptions continue to be bombarded by them, as if it's socially acceptable.

The next time you hesitate as a person with a disability to speak up, remember that your opinion matters. Those who see us as objects who are dumped, those who still insist on turning us into lemmings who all look the same are not going to shut up on their own. Their insistence on doing this obscures the real issues about disability and health care - long term care and the Community Choice Act, among others. It is up to us to claim our personhood and to insist that generalizations about disability and, at times our disability in particular, are untrue and that it's unacceptable to view us that way.


FridaWrites said...

I can't really believe anyone would dump a quadriplegic off a gurney. Or that it's a "problem" that people would listen to us or be on our side.

I went to college with his daughter, very sweet young woman. Always felt bad for her.

Wheelie Catholic said...

I'm constantly amazed by the inane comments coming out of the health care debate!

Anonymous said...

Also, two journalists who knew DeLay pretty well in the 1980s say they never heard of such a thing happening: Reporters Who Know DeLay Best: Quadriplegic Tale Is New To Us

I found the claim pretty hilarious - surely the only quads who are on gurneys are those who have only recently been injured (in which case they are likely to have a ventilator in their mouth, even if they would have come off it later) or are ill, and therefore are in no position to attend political meetings anyway. One wonders how they got the gurneys into the meeting room and down to the front also.