December 20, 2018
I am over people who assume they know me because they've met or they know a person with a disability. OK, so you know someone who has Cerebral Palsy? What does that have to do with me? Firstly, Cerebral Palsy in itself exists on a spectrum, and it affects everyone differently. People with disability are not a monolith. We don't look the same, we don't share the same personality, and we definitely don't think the same. Just like able-bodied folks, we're all different, and we're unique in our own right.
Secondly and more importantly, Cerebral Palsy does not define me; it is a condition that I have. I am defined and shaped by my history, my experiences, my interests and my traits. Despite having Cerebral Palsy, I myself don't even know everything about it, and I probably never will. I prioritise exploring other things that I'm interested in!
On Sunday nights, I go and play poker at the Settlement Hotel in Cranbourne. I usually go with Kirsty, one of my support workers, or occasionally with Matt, another worker. I don't usually drink alcohol when I'm there, but the first time Matt and I went together, I decided to have a few drinks because I was in the mood.
Last Sunday, Matt was with me again, and another poker player approached me and said, "you can't drink tonight while you're with this new support worker". She had assumed that my support workers had control over what I'm allowed to do. Initially, I thought she was joking, but she was incessant, going on about it all night. I started getting irritated because she was essentially implying that I didn't have a choice in the matter and couldn't decide for myself.
All of my support workers know I have the freedom to do whatever I want to do, whenever I want to do it. As a conscious adult, it's my right. If I wanted to get blind drunk when Kirsty takes me out, she'd say, "go for it". In fact, she encouraged me to chug a drink. The notion that support workers can control clients is outdated and ignorant thinking, even though many still try to do so. We deserve autonomy, particularly in adulthood, and it's not the place of anyone, let alone people who don't know us, to make judgements on us.
I straight up told the woman to "fuck off" and continued to do so for the rest of the night, despite her attempts to keep talking to me. When Matt tried to explain to her why I was pissed off, she claimed that she understood my situation because she had a family member with Cerebral Palsy. Cue further irritation. If she had the faintest clue about Cerebral Palsy, she would recognise that no two people with this condition are the same. She continued on, not taking anything Matt was explaining on board because she "knew better" and wasn't open to learning.
There are a few lessons to learn here:
1) All people with disability are different; stop assuming that we are the same! Even people with the same disability are different to each other.
2) People with disability have the right to make their own decisions, despite what your personal views are
3) A good support worker understands that their clients should live their lives however they choose