Tuesday, May 17, 2011

be thankful and shut up

In all of the communities where I find myself belonging, there is a theme of gratefulness and silence.
First, people with disabilities should be grateful for everything. If I refuse assistance from someone and am with able-bodied friends, some say I should be thankful for their kindness. Well, I'm not. If I say I do not want or need assistance, I expect the person to back off and say ok, not continue to grab my arm, push me, insist I can't do it by myself. I'd be grateful if able-bodied rules about personal space applied to me. There is also being grateful for services and access. At the beginning of my freshman year, well a week before it started, I put in a request for a reader for my French book and workbook. Since I had filled out accomodations forms with a reader as a possible accomodation, I didn't think it would be a problem. I went in to DSS my first week to see when I could have my reader, and the secretary happily hands me tapes. I ask her what these are, and she says, the first chapter of your French book and workbook. Me (in my mind) what? This is *not* what I meant by a reader. I tell her I thought I was going to have a reader. She says, "there is a reader on the tapes. He read the books and recorded them." I gave them back to her and explained that a reader is someone who will sit with me and read the book, spell words, describe photos, ETC. She said, "but they're already done." I told her that the tapes would not be helpful and I would like a reader. She proceeds to say they've never done that before, and the other blind students liked the tapes. I'm not all blind students. French is a language I've only had for a semester, and I need someone to spell new words and tell me which accent marks go on the letters. In this put upon tone, she says "i'll see what I can do." Three weeks later, they finally found a reader for me. Thank God the professor was understanding and gave me an extention because of accessibility issues. By that time, I had four chapters of workbook and lab work to do. Any time after that when I needed a reader, I found the person before the class started or the first couple days of class and sent them to DSS to fill out the paperwork to work for me.
Another area where I see the grateful attitude is adoption. I'm not bashing all adoptive parents; there are many awesome ones who are empathetic and do great work with their kids and the community. But there are many others who think adoption is the best thing and first moms and adoptees should share the same happy clappy emotions. Well that's not true for me and other adoptees. I started asking questions about Paraguay when I was in junior high; my mother says why do you want to know that stuff for, it's borring. She doesn't know anything about Latin America and has no desire to learn. I tell her I feel as if I'm missing culture and stuff and the feelings are dismissed because she says, "you're white and live in our family." I am allowed to have these feelings and questions, and they should not be invalidated because she is happy with everything. Then, there is adoption in conversations. It comes up with friends and strangers alike. I always say, there are many issues to be considered in adoption. I think they all look at me with surprise or something because they say, "huh? What issues?" There is whether people want open or closed adoptions. With domestic ones, that is a possibility. However, in international adoption, that is another whole kettle of fish. There are so many corrupt agencies who find children on the streets or take them from families and relatives who want them. There is so much money and agencies who are looking out for themselves and the children. there are often not records and a family history. I do not have a birth certificate, medical history, or anything from my time in Paraguay. It makes things complicated when I need to give official documents, like getting state Id and stuff. In the conversations, people are usually either I didn't think of that, or but you got adopted and don't live there anymore so be happy about it and don't worry about adoption issues.
But that is not who I am. I have always cared about justice and equality, and being a sociology major strengthened that part of me. Sometimes fighting for my rights is tiring, and it would be nice just to curl up in a ball and not think of them. However, I won't stop fighting for myself. I owe it to myself to make sure I have the access I need, not the access someone else thinks I need, to the materials and services that will allow me to be successful. Maybe the next student will not have as difficult a time because of something I said. I do it for my students, especially the children, because I want them to see that they do not have to settle just because someone offers a crumb of accommodation. I will not shut up about adoption because the system needs to change. I'm new to adoption advocacy, but I want to help in any way I can.

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