Belinda

March 20, 2007 at 6:34 PM (disabled women) ()

So it’s summer and I’m 14 or so, spending time at a summer camp for kids with impairments.

Belinda was my cabin mate.

She had a soft voice and hair that was always pulled back carefully, clothes expensive but not showy.

Her cognition appeared to be what able bodied people would consider ordinary, unaffected…

She had crutches similar to mine.

And, she was clearly used to asking for help with the simplest of tasks.

“Would you get me my suitcase?” I need something from it.”

The suitcase was under her bed…A couple of smacks with a crutch would have brought it within her reach…

“Would you get me some paper? I need to write a letter.” The paper was stowed just above the bed she was sitting in…it appeared to be within her reach.

The counselors had obviously been told that a bit more self reliance was the goal of sending her to camp, so they were disinclined to do these assists that from their perception and my own, she could have handled.

So, I wondered…I didn’t want to mouth off against her, but everytime we were in the same space, I became her de facto PCA.

I decided to see if there really was some reason that she couldn’t do these things…so I started asking, carefully…”Is that something you can reach?”

“Oh yes,” she said cheerfuly…It’s just easier to ask someone else to do it….” I swear she sounded just like the perky cheerful friend from an English novel about a girls boarding school.

“Well,” I said carefully…”I’m at camp too. And I have things to do…so whenever you *can* do something yourself, you need to do it.”

She was amazed…”Really?” No one at home asks me to pick up my own things…”

(I privately wondered how she and my mother would have gotten on…)

She slowly began to do more for herself…but was astounded and preachy when she found I did swim myself and made arrangements to continue to do so safely during menstruation.

“That’s just impossible! Mother says there’s no way I could do that…” She was actually fearful and angry that she would be expected to do what I did…but they didn’t expect that….

I wasn’t surprised that Belinda didn’t come back the following year or any other…but I wished she would because near the end of her two weeks she was having fun…making a bit of a game about doing her own tasks…

My perception was that she was a lazy wilful arrogant person who enjoyed ordering people around, but I recognized that *I didn’t know for sure…* and so that’s why I handled my question carefully No one outside, even a fellow crip, can have error proof judgements about what an individual can or can’t do…

I don’t know if I did her wrong or not…and I wasn’t the mouthy broad I am today so any griping I did, I did in private…

But *doing more* did interest her…and engage her….

Did she keep it up when she went home or did the parents let things slide…

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