Tuesday, February 16, 2016

True Accessibility



Last week PSP came home with 3 scarves she got from gym class--they were learning how to juggle, of all things! Having not been blessed with this particular brand of hand-eye coordinate I was actually quite pleased to see her school teaching this sort of thing in gym. Plus its just fun. Who gets to go to clown college in elementary school? My girl does. Anyway, she came home and was demonstrating her skills starting with the basic 2 scarf toss... you toss them in an x pattern and practice catching them with the opposite hand.

I can't remember who initiated this next interaction, but at some point Lamp decides she wants to learn to juggle. So PSP decides to teach her. I'm making dinner and moving about the kitchen when I stop and take a moment to process.

My fully able-bodied 8 year old daughter is teaching my differently-abled 5 year old daughter--who has no hands!--how to juggle. With no hesitation. With absolutely no condescension. And with a generous amount of encouragement.

This is how PSP has always treated her sister (for the most part)--they play together, they read together, they do lots of things together. But sometimes PSP climbs a tree in the backyard while Lamp sits and watches. Sometimes PSP runs in the backyard really fast, and Lamp's chair still lags behind. They do stuff together, but it's not like they both don't understand the limitations that Lamp has either.


But this. Juggling. As I've recently stated I definitely underestimate Lamp from time to time, as I do with all of my kids. Shoot, my husband too... (perhaps I've got a problem?) But I really don't want to be dismissive because the truth is I know that sometimes I underestimate Lamp because of her disabilities. Which can be a hard line to walk because she does have limitations. Of course I have also not underestimated her plenty of times, and I help others--her school, her peers, and even family--see all that she can do, I teach others about her abilities and how she is differently able.

But looking at PSP teaching Lamp how to juggle, I think back to the words Rebekah wrote a few weeks ago in the special needs spotlight:

"When I think about genuinely "accessible" spaces--the kind of space where I feel safe, included, connected--where I can take a deep breath and know my needs will be met--part of what I see is ramps and handicapped spaces, but mostly I imagine more and more people who are open, present and flexible about what it looks like to be human in this world."

And that is where I see I still lack, and where most people still lack for that matter. Am I open, present and flexible about what it looks like to be human in this world?  And I would add am I open, present and flexible about what success and accomplishment look like? I have definitely learned that sometimes Lamp does things in her own, unique Lampy way. And it may not look like the way I do it,  and it may not even fit the actual definition of what it actually is, but for Lamp she is completing the task to the best of her abilities, therefore she is doing it--whatever it happens to be. For example jumping. When Lamp jumps she doesn't get far off the ground, if at all, but she uses her whole body and bounces as high and as hard as she can. And for Lamp that is jumping.

I don't know of a better person than PSP who has shown and continues to show me what it looks like to be open, present and flexible about what it looks like to be human in this world. As I sat there watching these juggling lessons I wondered, "Does PSP think Lamp will be able to juggle like she can? Or does PSP think that Lamp will juggle in a unique Lamp way?" But it's the last question that sticks with me most of all and is really the point I believe, "Does she even care?"


In what other ways do you think being "open, present and flexible about what it looks like to be human in this world" is important? Do you think it's important? Also, anyone happen to see Stevie Wonder at the Grammy's last night? I just happened to turn on the show about 2 seconds before and this was the best moment I could have hoped to see! 

1 comment:

  1. Yes!!! It takes so much effort to step back and let go of any assumptions and open our minds to true accessibility... It's an internal struggle I have as well thanks to years and years of cultural assimilation and also just not *being* a physically challenged person. I can't make assumptions because I'm not in that person's place. Dang. Adulting is hard.

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