A few weeks ago I attended mandatory workplace training in Non-Violent Crisis Intervention and learned a few basic practical applications and physical intervention skills
As the aggressor one may decide to grab, hit, throw, punch, kick or yell. As the person being targeted, one may have to avoid, deflect or escape various holds, blows and violent behaviours intended to do you harm.
Each person ideally wants these 3 things in play: Movement. Stability. Safety. If you can’t move, that is a problem. If you fall over at a whisper, that’s a problem. And if you’re not able to maintain relative safety, that is a problem.
Here’s my problem. On either side, aggressor or target, in this scenario, with my current skills and training, I can never have all three in play. Rehearsal was laughable and entirely unrealistic for me as a disabled person, crutch user and general non-combatant (arm-wrestling and logic aside). All this training did for me was to highlight how vulnerable I really am, how invisible disability still is, and how fantastic it would be to have an All Bodies Defence Project* to go with All Bodies Dance Project**(www.allbodiesdanceproject).
The messaging I took away was basically, ‘Girl, you are done for.’ The training session was an ablest convention where disability was simply not part of the conversation, there was no awareness, no adaptations or suggestions or even acknowledgement that someone might have limited mobility or other impacts on their participation or experience from either side. It was geared toward the angry, middle-aged, able-bodied white, male stereotype, and everything else was simply out of scope. Everyone played along. I improvised and was invisible until the final 60 seconds when the facilitator gathered everyone round, thanked them for their participation and then pointing a finger right at me said, in a sing song tone suitable for babies only, with not a clue about how fast the day’s work could be undone and his ignorance confirmed, “And you too, dear –you did a great job. Thank you for coming!”.
Respect individuals and their experience. Please! Don’t single me out in a crowd as ‘other’. Don’t talk to me like I’m a child. I am an intelligent, strong, independent, capable, full-grown woman and human being. I have a name, I am actually wearing a name tag: My name is Sam. It is not Dear. Now is the time to practise what you preach.
I wanted to hit him. Instead, I walked away. And nobody noticed. Nobody understood.
It was a very disappointing day.
*I’d love to attend a class on self-defense where persons with disabilities and without could learn and practice skills together to stay safe and there was input from and representation of a variety of people and disciplines (ie: differences in strategy for sighted vs blind or partially sighted persons, crutch vs wheelchair users, youth vs senior, etc.)
**As a dancer with All Bodies Dance I feel respected and valued. Rehearsal is a place where everyone comes to learn together and share experiences, where differences are acknowledged and new ways to move and work together are discovered. Where I never feel out-of-place or at a disadvantage. We dance and have fun doing it in all sorts of non-typical ways!