Tag Archives: ableism

Share your experiences of dating and ableism on ACSEXE+

I just finished an amazing conversation with a good friend about ableism in dating, and the subtle ways that family expectation and judgement can infiltrate our intimate relationships. Our conversation will be posted on http://acsexe.tumblr.com/ in the next week or two! I’ve invited other people to share their experiences and thoughts on ableism and dating for the ACSEXE+ blog…

Want to contribute?

Message me or post below anything from a word that comes to mind, to an experience you had on a date, or reflections on ableism in and around relationships. Looking forward to compiling!

ACSEXE+ is a blog and video series all about sexuality and disability/ access. My main goal with this project is to share the perspectives and experiences of people in Quebec and elsewhere, in a bilingual form, to share our experiences and talk about sex and disability in a sex-positive way:) Cause sex is amazing, and disability can add layers of awesomeness to the equation! New ways of doing things, relating, communicating… I am collaborating with a feminist organization here in Montreal called the FQPN and the Accessibilize Montreal crew! Get in touch!

❤ Aimee

alouw@fqpn.qc.ca


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Well, tonight (Mar 18, 2015) I called the cops on a
bus driver. Yes. The driver of the 105, bus number 22-288, departing
concordia loyola campus at around 10:30 pm tonight, held me captive
on his bus at my stop. I was the only passenger left, he closed the
doors, parked the bus, illuminated the out of service sign and told
me I was not going anywhere.

This happened after I had requested
that he lower the bus when I got on at loyola. I had taken the
concordia shuttle from downtown and waited to take the 105 two stops
to home. I requested, he looked me up and down and said ‘vous est pas
capable de prendre la marche?’ I stared at him. I said, ‘are you
going to lower it?’

He said ’S’il vous plait?’ I stared at
him.

He reluctantly lowered it.

I sat at the front of the bus.

He said, ‘you could have said please.’
In French.

I said, ‘it’s not up to you to ask
whether or not I can take a step.’ In English.

He said ‘vous pouvez parler en
francais’.

I said, ‘yes I could’.

He sassed me.

I sassed back.

Then, two stops later, at my stop, a
guy was getting off first, and before he got off said, ‘it shouldn’t
make a difference whether someone is speaking english or french,
you’re in the public service, you should respond to your customers.’
The driver at this point said ‘oui, je comprends le francais, j’ai
juste dit…’

The guy getting off the bus said
something else and then the driver became aggressive, pointing his
finger at the guy and started to yell. Then I got up and told him he
was being aggressive and that is against stm policy, it says so right
there on the poster. (‘Pas de place pour la violence’ with a big
clipart heart)

The guy got off the bus, I sat down to
hit record on my phone because I had a feeling this was not over, and
then I found out that I was right.

The driver got up out of his seat, came
and leaned over me and said, that I was not polite.

I said that all I did was ask for the
bus to be lowered.

He said that he has children and he’s
teaching them to be polite.

I said, ‘oh now you’re comparing me to
your kids? That’s demeaning.’

I told him that it is his directive to
lower the bus and ramp whenever asked, regardless of what a person
looks like. I was angry. He was going to call the cops. He had closed
the doors, making it impossible for me to get off the bus. He
was going to call the cops?

Fuck no!

I dialed 911 and
tried to set up my call recording app.

I guess 911 is
blocked from these types of apps because it didn’t take.

I called again,
without recording and told the oporator I was being held on a city
bus against my will. I told her where and what bus number and she
said she’d send a car.

Then, after hearing
me speak very loudly, in English, to 911, the driver opened the doors
of the bus. Imagine that. He got off and talked to the driver of
another 105 who had pulled over to look out for his union brother.

I waited on the bus
for the cops. Let’s do this shit I said to myself and my cellphone
recording, fuck this. Let’s see what the cops have to say about a
male bus driver locking a woman alone with him on a bus late at
night.

The cops came to
talk to the bus drivers, completely ignoring me.

As they went
directly to speak with the drivers, I intercepted, asking ‘does
anyone want to hear what I have to say?’

One
c
op told me to go away – over there. The other, shorter
shittier cop grabbed me by the arm and pulled me away, and when he
realized I was audio recording him, he took my phone, stopped the
recording and turned off my phone, and wouldn’t give it back to me.
Schoolyard bully style.

I finally grabbed it out of his gloved
hand and started recording again, attempting to speak with the stm
cops and chef d’operations who had now arrived on the scene.

They were ‘mamming’ me, and telling me
to wait my turn, that they had to speak to the driver first even
though I was the one being threatened, held against my will and had
called the cops to help me.

The first cop, after having a little
chat with the bus driver, confronted me and told me if I ‘can’t live
in the society, that’s my problem.’ He had my bag, including my
wallet, and he threw it in the mud. He told me to go home. ’M’am go
home. You’re off the bus now. We need you to go home.’ This is
actually what he told me. As though I am the problem. I am a
hysterical, crazy bitch who should quiet down and go home. I’m the
problem. I did something wrong by calling the police when my security
was in danger. ‘Go home, m’am, go home now. Back off. Back off. When
I tell you to back off you back off.’ Me: ‘Don’t touch me, you can’t
touch me.’

Cop: ‘If you don’t follow my order I
can touch you. Back off. That’s an order. That’s an order.’

What is that shit? Am I a fucking
cadet?

Eventually an older man stm cop, a
retired military policeman I found out later, took me to sit down in
his cruiser and took notes on my side of the story. He looked me in
the eyes and answered a lot of the questions I grilled him with like,
what is the policy of the stm on ramp usage, (by saying I don’t know,
I’m not a policy guy) and sublty suggesting I request a
‘sensibilisation’ for the driver or group of drivers in the complaint
I could file. Hardly an ally, but he wasn’t harrassing or being
violent towards me, so that’s a start.

I told him a lot, recounted the whole
thing, how I didn’t answer his question about my personal, physical
‘capabilities’ and he took that as a personal affront to his pride,
and as an opportunity to hold me hostage and give me private
ettiquite pointers. I explained that asking someone what they are or
are not capable of when they request an accessibility feature, is
dicrimination. You can hear all of this on the attached recording.
The stm cop listened, took notes for his report. I asked who gets the
report, in like, 2500 different ways. He dodged my questions about
this in 3000 ways. He asked what my disability is, for the report. I
told him what I was comfortable telling him, that I use various
mobility aides, that I have chronnic pain and that any unnacounted
for movements cause me more pain. I refused to answer with any more
information. I asked him about protocol when a complaint is filed, he
told me that I should consider taking Transport Adapte. I repeated
sentences about discrimination and how scary it was to be locked on a
bus with a man. He offered to drive me home. I declined.

We got out of the car, out of earshot
of his bitchy young white Quebec-supremicist lady cop partener with a
swishy ponytail. He told me his mother is ‘handicapped’ too, and she
uses a wheelchair and she has a hard time getting anywhere, and its
not just the stm its stores and restaurants and they offer
alternative services like food delivery, but its not the same. He
said this is a hard moment and it will pass.

I said, yes discrimination is
everywhere, but the stm is a public service and it especially burns
because I pay full price for a pass every month.

And this moment may pass, but actually,
this happens every day.

Now I’m home and trying to play back
that first recording of the bus driver and little cop and it won’t
play. I think he fucked with the recording somehow. Makes sense that
a cop would learn that trick. Hopefully someone out there can help me
fix it so we can hear the first five minutes of what turned into an
over hour long complete fuck up.

I am at a loss. I am fine. I am
wondering should I get back in touch with the journalists? Should I
blockade stm meetings, should I ignore this constant bullshit so I
can get my work done? Should I move right now and leave all this
horse shit behind me, thereby kind of screwing my comrades over? I
had such a nice evening too, singing and seeing my music family, UTC.
I was listening to Canada Reads on podcast and planning the soup I
was going to eat. That driver, those cops, this constant harrassement
and abuse by the stm really put a damper on my mood.

Right now I am in calm shock and need
to eat dinner.

Anti-inflammatories, inflammatory comments, and gym-going businessmen

I feel like I came back to sit in my apartment. Like all the freedom and beautiful things I experienced in the city by the sea got crushed under the forced and weary footsteps I took yesterday on a quest to find wheels. Like the cheap wine and post election revolutionary stirrings in the street were not worth the lack of mobility and freedom I am experiencing right now, in this moment. I haven’t felt this much physical pain since I left Edmonton and thought I could just go to the dog park and walk around with my Mum like I used to. Boots laced up tightly and dog drooling all over the beige spring earth. I was wrong.

And I was wrong to expect that the Rheumatologist I came back in time to see would have anything to say that I haven’t already heard: take anti-inflammatories, here’s a prescription, oh they hurt your stomach and you don’t want to damage your kidneys? Well take this other thing at the same time, so it counters the side effects. Its all about quality of life. You want to have a normal life right? Well, take these things and walk like I do until you can’t anymore. Then have your bones cut out and reconstructed and then walk around like I do some more.

I don’t like ableism, the idea that the definition of a good life is one that mirrors that of the normal, jogging businessman. The guy who lifts weights after driving to the gym. The kind of guy who carries all his grocery bags in one hand. Its oppressive. And he, incidentally, is also the type of guy who cuts you off in the grocery store because he’s in a rush to go home and grab his ergonomic shoes and extra breathing exercise clothes and make it to the gym tonight.

I don’t like ableism, the training and practice in medicine that aims at contorting you, your body, your reality to fit the norm. The medicine that makes you conform. The physio who says, I’m closing your file, you need to stop seeing me and get on with your life. As though doing exercises that strengthen me and make me feel balanced in my movements are a temporary, post-crisis experience; the time in a wheelchair a negative period in an otherwise bi-pedal, therefore, positive life.

I can’t sit, I can’t stand, when I lie down the nagging god damn pain makes my breathing short, my muscles contract, and makes me scowl. This is what I get from their normal.

Why should I struggle getting everywhere I go? To let doctors feel that they have succeeded? To make people in the public feel more comfortable with my body? To feel like I made it back to the enrobbing comfort of the false norm?

How about instead of me walking around just so I can get on the metro and hopefully have the mobility required to buy groceries, get fresh air, see things and get to a job, we just put elevators in the metro so that I can use some sort of wheeled vehicle to do the same stuff? I promise having crips in public places doesn’t contaminate the public experience. I promise we won’t roll over your toes or force our ways of being on you, like you have on us. I promise you’ll stop feeling so uncomfortable the more you see us in your spaces. I promise that diversity of existence is a positive thing.

Two unrelated experiences with elders since i got back to Mtl:

1. Yesterday i took a sunny walk to the grocery store at the end of block to buy eggs and rice cakes and tomatoes. It was an epic self brunch kind of afternoon. As I walked I stretched and did some leg lift exercises. Better out in the fresh air than inside. I was feeling good, happy that my leg didn’t feel too bad, that I was just strollin along without thinking about pain. As I raised my head from a particularly luxurious bend over stretch an oldish lady said, what’s wrong? Is it your back? I said no I’m just doing some exercises for my knee. Smiling. Not feeling annoyed yet. Then she reprimanded me for not taking a cane. Yes friends, she yelled at me: il faut prendre ta canne! Ta canne! And demonstrated what she meant by charade showing me an air cane. Then I went and bought groceries.

2. As I was coming out of Beaubien metro today on my way to a scooter rental place, with the hopes of driving one home, you know i don’t like to wait, an 80 something lady asked if she could help me as I heaved my bag over my shoulder after getting off the escalator. It was a long commute and one that I undertook planning to do one way, and with the promise of not walking much the next few days. I knew it would fuck my knee up. I said no thanks I’m ok. Then we struck up a conversation. She noticed I was an anglophone (speaking french) and asked where i was from, said i had a beautiful accent, to which i responded, that’s the first time anyone’s ever said that to me! She asked my what i ‘had’ and then we talked arthritis, anti-inflammatories and age non-expected body types, she expressed that she knew something wasn’t ‘normal’ when she saw such a young girl with a cane. I told her perhaps it was not normal for many but its very normal for me. She said i had a beautiful smile, and she supposed i couldn’t work given my ‘maladie’. So nice and sweet and discriminatory at the same time:/ She hugged me and said, tu es courageuse! (You’re courageous!) I said thank you and take care. We walked our separate ways. Slowly. With our canes. A normal interaction for an abnormal reason.

Take your time my dear, he said, as I struggled to pull the one side of my coat with holes to meet the side with the buttons. I didn’t realize it but the waitors’ hasty movements and hurried closing activities like slamming bar stools on benches upside down, and whipping their ponytails back and forth were making me rush to get out of the hippy cafe bar we found after a long day of travelling from the island to the mainland. There’s this phrase I’ve been saying a lot lately: on se décalice. That’s what I was doing. J was already on his scooter, ready to roll to catch the second-last sky train; we didn’t want to risk going for the last one, and I felt like once again I was making him wait, I was taking too long to do everything. I was feeling rushed and impatient with myself. These are not new feelings nor are they sparse. I have always found myself around faster moving people with quicker paced schedules than I have, and have quite often felt like I’m not measuring up. Like I’m not walking fast enough or working fast enough or eating fast enough or getting out of the bathroom fast enough or changing fast enough after going swimming with childhood friends. I had this thought today as we were having our breakfast in the hotel lobby, after J said I’m almost ready to go because he thought I was anxious to leave, but I was just enjoying my coffee, waiting for the rain to pass, that sometimes I prefer to be alone not because I don’t want company but because I don’t want to have to explain myself or say I’m coming, almost ready. Its simpler to go alone. Easier to follow my own rhythm when I’m the only one playing the song.

The thing about the Underwater City is that its as much about people as it is ramps or wheels or pave-jobs. Its about patience and laughing as you race down the sidewalks, mocking the bi-pedals for being so slow. Its about figuring out how to fit two scooters in an elevator, on a bus, how to hold the door open for each other. Its about J giving me lifts on the ferry to look at the sunset, and me grabbing something from a tight space that would be a pain in the ass for him to drive his scooter into. Not that he wouldn’t be able to do it, or that he would complain at all. Its about asking ça va, when I am clearly upset about something, its about being there for each other and finding a pub to eat and dance in.

Its about the scientist giving the writer space to sit on the pier with my cell phone writing, texting myself new bits, and the writer trying to give the scientist an estimated time of how long it will take to get her idea down on a semi-used napkin in a bar. Its about not wanting anything in return after petting my hair when I am overwhelmed with emotion from the broad uncertainty I’m swimming in, being treated so well in public and seeing the vast blue-greys of sky meeting ocean and mountains.

As we both sat on the seats of the skytrain, our scooters rocking with the turns, patiently waiting to carry us when we arrived at our stop, I said I wished I had more crip friends when I was growing up. Its comfortable and well-paced and not frustrated with me. We’re good to travel together. He gets me coffee when I’m sleepy, I make us pose for pictures. He said its true, quand tu voyage avec les gens bi-peds il comprennent pas quand tu cherche un ascenseur ou que tu prends plus de temps pour s’habiller. They are shocked when elevators aren’t as obviously located as escalators or stairs and don’t seem to understand that sometimes you need to sit there kind of groaning on a ferry seat with your legs spread in the air flashing the seagulls flying on the wind currents outside the boat window to recuperate before you go on. I’m so happy J joined me, took me to Stanley Park, and taught me how to get on the bus in a scooter without loosing my shit. We’re closer with each other now after having travelled to three different cities, across mountain ranges and prairie, across countless rivers and between tiny islands in the pacific ocean. We’re closer and I feel closer to finding the Underwater City. As I’ve jokingly been asking him repeatedly over the course of our travels… are we there yet?

Cars, mothers, dental work and drowsiness-inducing painkillers: on mutual self-care

The thing about being in a car-centric place is that you can’t take your mum to a doctor’s appointment if you don’t drive, and she will insist on driving. If you were in your natural habitat, you would hail a cab, and take it home. There would be no option for her to drive after being put under, operated on, and having three different types of painkillers. We had gotten up early, rushed to this hotel on the south side of Edmonton to catch the Red Arrow bus to Calgary. She was having dental surgery there. And then we got back on the Red Arrow bus back to Edmonton, that same day. And she insisted on driving home after we got off the bus. It was a lot.

She’s always telling me: just take a cab, if your knee’s hurting just take a cab, its not worth it. And that’s what I’m learning to do, not push myself, not do a marathon worth of activity after a surgery, or even on a regular day. I’m learning to take care of myself. Always, not just when I have time or can afford it. I have the luxury, when I can’t afford it, of a credit card. I am not forced to work a job that disables me. I felt frustrated that she wouldn’t let me help her, not even carry my own backpack, let alone carry her bag. To me self care is about accepting help when you need it and giving help when someone needs it more, if you can. But she wouldn’t, she said, “birdie I’m fine. Tell you what if you notice anything unsafe after one block I’ll pull over and call a cab.”

The sticker on the anti-inflammatory she just took flashes in front of my eyes: may cause dizziness or drowsiness. Merde I thought, I’m going to rip her face off. So I stormed into the hotel the bus dropped us off at, that her car was parked at, and looked for the bathroom. I only found the men’s and didn’t want to walk farther cause I didn’t have my cane and my leg was hurting so I went and spoke to myself in the mirror of the men’s. Gender is silly anyways. I wanted to hold my ground but didn’t want to force her out of her car, motor running, bags packed in and all. I wanted her to accept that I might have a reasonable point, along with all the nurses we spoke to who said, no driving or anything strenuous. But she was ok, she was fine. She is a bull-headed, sweet spoken lion woman, and will not back down from her belief that she can and will do everything all at once. Won’t take T3s, won’t ask a friend for a ride, won’t stay the night in Calgary, won’t even let me walk her to the bathroom. Because that would mean… what? That she, along with everyone else in the world, needs support and help sometimes? That her self-image and the image she puts out in the world will be degraded? Does she see needing help as a degradation of her self image, her pride, her confidence? Does she see it as fine for others to need help but not herself? How does that make me feel, when I am openly working on accepting help when I need it. And why does she only accept help when she is at the complete end of the possibility of doing something herself? Am I talking about my mother or myself at this point?

Its a sensitive subject for me cause I’m trying so hard to not be ableist towards myself. And I forget that when I come home, after being away and changing my perspectives, that I can’t expect others to receive that perspective through some transmissive process as soon as my plane lands and walker wheels hit the dry Edmonton ground. I can’t get mad at someone for operating how she always does, frustrated that she’s more concerned with my arthritis pain than the two incisions in her own mouth. I can try and make her see that its important to take of herself too, and that means resting sometimes. I can try and lead by example, by explanation, by sharing my experiences with coming home and putting a heat pad on my legs, or leaving my house messy or not pushing myself in the pool even though I want to swim soo fast and forever. But I can’t just get mad and slam doors. Damn I said to the mirror in the men’s hotel washroom with the potpourri and urinal scent, how stubborn and bull-headed was I this summer when she was helping me heal my broken leg?image

The Megabus station in Mtl is a Mega fuck-up. A step to enter, four to get to the counter. And Mr Clean product being sprayed as though they were trying to disinfect our souls!! Too bad they moved out of central station. Well I made it, got the best seat on da bus:) Bye Underwater Friends, love uuu!!