Disability and tyranny

Recently I had an encounter with a young man who had worked in an agency that served blind people. I’d had only pleasant telephone contact with him over a number of years, but now in person, he talked about how demanding so many of the blind clients had been.
I swallowed a few times. “Was I a pain? “Of course, he reassured me that I wasn’t one of the guilty.
Still, I was surprised by his comment because I’ve often thought that disability could turn a person overly polite and even apologetic for needing help of any sort. Then I remembered that every now and then, I had encountered a person with a disability who was tyrannical. One of my role models growing up was one of my parents’ best friend, a man paralyzed in Iwo Jima during World War II. He drove, made a ton of money, and ruled his family like the military ex-officer he was. However, the more help he needed, the bitchier he got. I remember a time when my brother and another strong man lifted him in his wheelchair up a series of steps. He yelled and insulted them all the way into the house. My brother turned to me, just recently blind, and said, “I was about to tell him to take his own self into the house. Don’t get like that, Sally.”
I remembered, too, that people dealing with the elderly had often told me that their patients could be unreasonably pushy. It seemed that lost capacity was at the bottom. As people lost various independent abilities, they tended to be frustrated and angry. The helpers often got the brunt of these bad feelings in the form of bossiness.
Often it’s easier to humor someone elderly or disabled and allow their temper tantrums or irrational thinking. Particularly when the care giver feels sorry for the client or patient, he can be reluctant to speak honestly about the unreasonable behavior.
As I age and deal with increased hearing loss in addition to blindness, I simply cannot stand the thought that my loved ones or eventual care givers will not treat me with the respect of candor. Speaking truth in a loving way shows respect and equality.

About Sally Hobart Alexander

Blinded at the age of twenty-six, I left California and elementary school teaching for life in Pittsburgh, Pa. There, I met my husband, got a Masters' degree in social work, had two kids, now 35 and 32, and became a writer. Surprisingly, the writing career led me full-circle to teaching, and I teach in Chatham University's M.F.A. program and lead two writing critique groups. Always, since the age of 26, I have traveled, not in the stereotypic darkness attributed to blindness, but a mist. My blog then, "traveling through the mist" will deal with issues in my culturally different life as a blind writer, teacher, speaker, and human being.
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