September 23, 2020

The Editor Speaks: A most moving letter

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Colin WilsonwebChelsea Rivers has written a letter titled “Living the differently abled ”.

She starts with:

“Most don’t get it … and I hope they never will … because the only way someone will ever “get it” is to LIVE IT. Living with a disability is hard enough – whether it be your own or that of someone you love – but to endure the struggles of physical difficulties while trying to navigate a society of cluelessness is downright impossible. The average person is blessed to avoid this reality and can only look upon those “less fortunate” with apathy or empathy. They will never truly understand the struggle.

“It hurts me to no end that parents of special needs children are looked upon with sympathetic stares and teary eyed nods of encouragement, called amazing parents and wonderful people … just because we were given the monumental task of caring for someone who requires 24 hour love, support and attention. We are no different than any other parent, except that we are more tired, more stressed and more likely to face divorce, physical ailments (brought on by lack of rest and stress!) and a deeper look into the darkness of society vis a vie the lack of support on a daily basis.”

She thanks the “kindness and generosity of this country, I am the first to say that we are a nation of philanthropic givers” and admits she is a recipient of this…… “but let’s be honest, that’s really only in crisis … as most find it easier to turn a blind eye to the plight of the disabled on a daily basis. Not because they are evil or cold-hearted, but because they simply do not grasp the struggles that these members of society endure and it is too uncomfortable to remain exposed to it for an extended period of time. Once in a while is good enough, thank you very much!”

She points out that those with disabilities must live with themselves every day of their life and the caretakers, the parents, etc. have to learn to cope with “notmal life” whilst “experiencing the reality of life that their disabled family member brings to the table. Some days that life is amazing, wondrous and so rewarding … some days (and nights!) it really sucks.”

Then comes the real meat of her letter:

“So I do not expect anyone who is not living it to understand. What I DO expect is for those who do not understand to accept that we, the parents and those disabled with a voice, have to say. We want the needs of the disabled to be heard and answered. We want the support of the government to make and enforce laws that protect and help our children and family members. We are not asking for money, for hand-outs or for favours. We are asking for the people that sit in the big building to carve out some time to address this festering situation and make it a national priority. We are asking for some respect from the and we are asking that the citizens of the appreciate that life as a disabled person is hard enough … don’t make it worse by being insensitive and ugly!

“Recent comments by the RCIPS, defending the actions of their officers caught illegally parking in a Blue Spot (a specifically dedicated parking space for the disabled) brings to light the insensitivities at the highest levels of our society’s protection echelons. For a body of authority to declare that the spot did not meet the requirements to officially be deemed a disabled parking space – despite being clearly painted the right shade of blue and despite it bearing the universal symbol of the disabled – was a slap in the face to every disabled man, woman and child in Cayman. What that utterance may very well have succeeded in doing was to discredit the exhaustive, hard work of so many dedicated and committed individuals who are trying to raise awareness for the disabled. In declaring that a spot without a sign, regardless of its colour, proximity to the front door or symbolic demarcation, was not good enough for someone in a wheelchair but just perfect for police officers wanting a short walk or quick spot, sent a message that anyone, anywhere can challenge the rights of the disabled. Thank you very much RCIPS for your support in our lame cause.”

And she makes a plea for something that the cost is nothing more than a drop in the bucket:

“How can we, as a society, not circle wagons to protect our vulnerable? How can we challenge those chosen to raise them, care for them and defend them? Whether it is for a parking spot or insurance coverage? When did it become ok for people to throw the defenceless to the mercies of the world?

“While there have been strides over the past years to paint parking spaces blue, the reality is that most of those spaces are simply blue painted, normal parking spots – not wide enough to allow a wheelchair ramp to come down without hitting the closely parked car beside it. While there is a planning requirement to have disabled parking at every establishment, the reality is that there aren’t ramps at many of them, preventing wheelchairs from even making it onto the sidewalk. While many establishments have engineered ramps from the parking lot to the sidewalk, the reality is that the doors into their premises are not wide enough or there is a step up that makes it impossible to get inside. While many of these situations do not exist in places, the reality is that there are often no elevators to the 2nd level of restaurants or businesses, eliminating those options and shrinking the world of someone who cannot climb stairs due to their disability.

“Why? Because it is not a priority to make the Cayman Islands accessible to all.”

She even tries to excuse herself in the letter for being “too emotional”. She asks for forgiveness when it WE WHO SHOULD BE ASKING HER TO FORGIVE US!!”

Her letter tells of the mounting medical bills and the sky rocket price of insurance premiums, the “few opportunities together with continued education, employment and meaningful adulthood”. All of that, she says is “a wish of the parents who once looked upon the impending birth of their perfect child with hope and dreams of greatness.

Then comes her plea and it is not for money – it will not cost us a dime:

“The life of a differently abled person is fraught with dilemma, disappointment, frustration and depression. Please consider that the next time you make fun of them, park in a disabled spot or choose to look the other way, rather than face them head on like a real person who deserves a smile, a hello, a chance.”

M/s Rivers letter can be found in “Viewpoint” on the CNS website at: http://www.caymannewsservice.com/viewpoint/2014/09/18/living-differently-abled-life

I urge to read it and also note that it shamefully only attracted FIVE blogs in reply although they were nearly all positive.

That also spoke volumes.

Chelsea I am ashamed of myself. I also noted the condescending police response to the parking offences by their officers with excuses and at the same time pointing out the ticketing they had done to the public parking in the blue spot areas. Do they really think that impressed us?

Thank you for your most moving letter. I wish you hadn’t had the need, though, to write it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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