Today I had a new carer. She was with me all day helping me out at the castle, and we got on well. But she said one thing that made me bristle, and got me thinking.
I was telling her what I did as a job and her response was: ‘It’s good you keep busy.’
I laughed and said it definitely did keep me busy. I’m sure she didn’t mean to be patronising, but it sounded like a very judgemental comment. I don’t imagine she’d have said it to a non-disabled person with a similar job.
The assumptions embedded in the statement are that:
• As a disabled person I’m less likely to be busy than anyone else
• I only do my job in order to keep busy and not because I’m good at it, need an income, or enjoy it
• My job’s the only thing that makes my life full and busy
• That busy is a desirable thing to be!
Even if I didn’t work, whether because of my condition, employers’ attitudes to disability, or for some other reason, I’m sure my life would still be plenty busy.
I’m certain most other disabled people will’ve heard things like this too. I don’t want anyone to be paranoid about what they say, but it’s crucial judgement-laden comments like this stop being repeated without thought. They’re damaging, hurtful and belittle the contribution disabled people make in our society.
At the moment I’m ridiculously busy because of We Forgot The Lot! (It’s in exactly a week’s time). But I’m looking forward to having some time off after this event to rest and relax. And it’s not because I’m disabled – a break from busy-ness is good for everyone.
mr. rabbity says:
What a thoughtless comment, coming from a professional who is supposed to know better. But then again, some carers and nurses etc. have this patronising attitude towards their clients with disabilities. It’s often hidden underneath and masked -or exposed- in "meaning well" actions and comments.
I think these people never came to fully answer the question "how would I like to be treated if I were in her/his place." (Respectfully, equal, friendly…) They got stuck in their anxiety and answered "I would never be in his/her place." And they never got any further and are trying to patch up this lack of deeper knowledge with niceties. (If I were teaching nursing/caretaking I would make everyone write an essay of how would they arrange their life if they were struck by some disability -choosen by me, because in real life we don’t get to choose.)
I would add one negative attitude to your list of assumptions: ‘Your life must be suffering, and it’s good you keep busy so you don’t have time to think how sad your life is because you have all these limitations.’
Actually it’s great it didn’t even come to your mind that people could think so. Maybe such absurd and hurting assumption didn’t cross your mind because it’s so far away from describing your life?