Thursday, June 26, 2014

Kicked Out Of Class For Being Cripple?!?

First off, let me just say I wasn't kicked out of class for being cripple directly. But when it comes down to it, if you ask me that's pretty much what it amounted to. Also, for the sake of protecting the "innocent," I won't be using the teacher's actual name. This happened about 15-16 years ago in about 1998 or 1999 when I was in middle school (damn I'm getting old), and I really have no want or need to put the the teacher on blast for what she did back then. Also, she was old at the time anyways, and I'm going to assume she's retired by now. So for this story I'll just call her...Ms. Smith.

Before I start, let me just say that I've only had a few negative experiences in my life involving the school system, teachers, and being differently-abled. Teachers are cool in my book. Hell, my girlfriend, whom I love and have been with for 3+ years, is an elementary school teacher. Check out her teaching and cooking blog BTW, by the beautiful Alexis Sanchez. If I didn't give her a plug I never would've heard the end of it. So there you go babe! :) Where was I? Oh yeah, so I've never had any serious issues with teachers. But in this particular situation, I most definitely did. Now to set this up, you have to know one thing in particular. In my middle school, Washington Middle School (go Jr. Huskies), each student had 6 different classes, each separated by a 5 minute passing period to get from classroom to classroom. Now since I've been a speed demon in my wheelchair since birth, 5 minutes was plenty of time. However, once during the day, after 2nd period, I was let out of class 5 minutes early so that I had enough time to also use the restroom. I had to go all the way to the nurse's office bathroom or to the special education classroom bathroom since the "normal" boys bathroom didn't have any stalls I could fit my chair into. But that's another story for another time. So every single day I left early at the same time, and the teacher was well aware of this. I mean, how in the hell could a 12 year old, Black kid in a wheelchair, leave class early everyday unnoticed? Not possible. I didn't exactly blend in. On top of this, all of my teachers had communicated with my middle school counselors beforehand about whatever accommodations I needed in class, and this was one of them. Maybe this teacher just had a rough morning on the particular day this happened. Who knows.

So as I said, everyday I left early with no issues, and I never imagined there would be any issues. I clearly imagined wrong. Everything was totally normal up to this particular point. I came to class and did what I needed to do. However, that changed about 30 minutes into the period. So on this particular day, Ms. Smith announced to the class that we were having a test based on the words that she had given out. Instantly a red flag went off. What words?!? I asked her about the words she was referring to. "The words I've been giving to the class during the last 5 minutes of class each day," she replied. I reminded her that I leave class early everyday, so I didn't have the words. Not only that, I was never informed of the words at any time. Therefore I couldn't be expected to take the test at that time. She then replied to me "well that's your problem!" Seriously?!? She said this to a 12 year old! I was totally lost for words. What the fuck does a 12 year old say to that? It's my problem that I have to leave early to have enough time to use the restroom? Wow. Just then, my friend Pierre, one of my best friends still to this day, stood up. Unexpectedly, he then defiantly said to her, "my friend said that he can't take the test." I wasn't expecting him to do that at all. But whatever, I'm not mad at it. What was most shocking though was what happened next. The teacher then replied to my friend and I, and I'm not embellishing one bit, "well then you and your friend can get the hell out of my classroom!" Yes, you're reading this correctly. She actually said this to us in front of the whole classroom. Every time I think about this story I just have to laugh. It's just so crazy that this actually happened. In middle school. We were just kids! Pierre then replied while still standing, "well then me and my friend will get the hell out of your classroom." We then stormed out of the class and Pierre slammed the door behind us. We made the dramatic exit right? So after we left the class, we just kind of floated around until our next class period, and the day went as usual. However, I told my parents and my counselor later that day about the whole situation. To make an even longer story short, my parents, counselor, and the teacher, had a meeting later in the week. My parents never had and never would go for that shit. Period. And what happened is the teacher apologized, she made some changes so that I was given every opportunity to succeed like everyone else, and I eventually completed and passed the class.

So in a nutshell, this was a crazy experience for any 12 year old to have. Especially a 12 year old boy that already has insecurities around being in a wheelchair. Like I stated earlier, I wasn't actually kicked out of class for being cripple, but it's safe to say that if I didn't have to leave class early everyday this situation would've never happened. So it kind of boils down to if I wasn't differently-abled, I wouldn't have needed the extra time everyday, and the whole test words drama would've never taken place. Hence, getting kicked out of class as a result of an accommodation I needed because I'm differently-abled. Ridiculous! But I really wouldn't take it back for anything. It's situations like this that taught me early in life that while I have great people in my life, first and foremost I have to be my own greatest advocate. Plus, it showed me how even a middle school teacher can be cold blooded, so I'm never surprised at how some people act. And on top of all of that, because of it, I can tell all of you about another one of my ridiculous experiences. And some people say school is boring. Cripple Please! 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Riding (The Bus) While Crippled #1

Now if you follow me on Twitter (@j_mobile) or we're friends on Facebook (jolhporter), you know that I am a proud user of public transportation. Especially here in the King County and Seattle area where EVERY bus is wheelchair accessible. Also, seeing as my parents are the only ones that I know personally that own a wheelchair accessible vehicle that I can use, the bus is my only other option to get around. So for the most part, I love public transportation. Now notice I said "for the most part." Because, also if you follow or are friends with me on the aforementioned networking mediums, you also know that riding the bus has it's negatives. But while everyone will experience not-so-pleasant moments on buses, being in a wheelchair definitely "enriches" one's ride in my opinion. With that being said, I figured now would be a great time to give my readers a little insight on what riding the bus while crippled is like.

Let me first just say that I have been riding buses my whole life. It started with what some refer to as the "short, yellow bus" when I was in elementary, middle, and high schools, and during that time and now completely, King County's Metro bus system. In other words, I'm a seasoned coach traveler. But one of my earliest, and most interesting stories took place when I think I was in about 3rd or 4th grade. Now for those that aren't familiar with the "short, yellow bus," this essentially is the bus that people that the school deemed "special" would ride. Now the use of the word "special" is a topic I'll talk about later, but essentially people with physical and mental disabilities, and behavioral issues rode these type of buses. These buses usually are smaller, allowing fewer riders to be packed into them, and the type I rode also had wheelchair lifts and designated spots to strap down wheelchairs. To be honest, I never had that much of a problem with these buses. In the morning they picked me up in front of my house, and dropped me off at home after school. Actually, since these buses usually had to leave school at the end of the day earlier, in order to clear up space for the "normal" buses, I preferred them since I got to leave class 5-10 minutes early everyday. The only thing I wasn't the biggest fan of, was the fact that on these buses the wheelchair spots were in the very front behind the driver. So in other words, I couldn't face anyone I wanted to talk to unless they were in the wheelchair spot across the aisle from me. And also, what kid wants the feeling of an adult looming over them the whole time? On top of all of that, I knew the back of the bus was the bumpiest part, and being a typical boy, and I felt I was being robbed of that experience. Be careful what you wish for right?

So like I said earlier I was in about the 3rd or 4th grade, and at this time Laidlaw, it's First Student now for all you youngsters, started introducing wheelchair lift buses with wheelchair spots in the back. For lack of better word, I was pumped! I just dreamed of getting a bus where I finally got to sit in the back. Then the following summer, my dream came true. I had signed up for a summer swimming camp, and the bus that I was assigned to was one of these buses. I actually also had the same bus driver that I had had during the school year, so the day he pulled up he already knew I wanted to sit in the back since I always questioned him about not being able to do so. It might not seem like that big of a deal to some, but being able to sit in the back where it seemed as it I has free from being monitored by the driver was huge to me. And I must say it lived up to my expectations. I could talk to all the other kids without yelling, and it felt like a roller coaster every time any bump was hit. But like I said, I should've been careful for what I wished for.

One day during the same summer, I once again was on the back of the bus headed towards the community center pool at which my camp was located. I'm not totally sure, but I feel like on this particular day, I was the only kid on the bus. Figures. Still, being 15 feet away from the driver was awesome. So we were headed down 23rd avenue, when all of a sudden, BOOM! I know it only lasted for 1 second max, but that second seemed so incredibly long. Shit felt like I was in the Matrix, and this was long before the Matrix even existed! We had hit a pothole, and what a pothole it was. Looking back, I'm glad I've always been the type that wears a seatbelt. Especially this time. When we hit the hole, I literally bounced up out of my seat about 8-10 inches. I just remember during that split second thinking "this shit is gonna hurt." And I'm pretty sure "shit" is the word I used in my head at the time. When I came down, my assumption was right. That shit did hurt. The driver must've seen something, because he then asked me how was I. Trying to be a tough guy, I held back the grimace and assured him I was fine. It wasn't until the next day that I realized how bad the pain really was. Do you know what it feels like to have a severely bruised tailbone when all you can do is sit? It sucks. Everyday all day, for about 2 weeks, every hour felt like 2. I'd lean, rock, slouch, anything to relieve the pain. The doctor I saw about 3 days after the incident just told me to take ibuprofen, but still, since it's not like I could stand up to give me some reprieve, I just had to deal with it. Eventually the pain went away, but since that day I never sat in the back again. There was no way in hell that I was going to risk that happening again. Life went on, I healed up, but I've never forgotten that summer. Until that day, all I wanted was to sit in the back. Well I've been there, done that, and you can keep the damn t-shirt. You think you know what a real pain in the ass is? Cripple Please!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Original MacGyver Had To Be Cripple!

Now just as a refresher, MacGyver was a TV show that ran from 1985 to 1992 about a secret agent who basically solved complex problems in the field using everyday items like duct tape, paper clips, his trust worthy Swiss Army knife, and other items. So yeah, based on who he is and what he did, the original MacGyver had to be cripple in my opinion. Here's a test. When you think of a piece of bamboo, a wall hook, some glue, and sand paper, what do you think of? OK. Time's up. Anything? Well I think of something I made about a year and a half ago that I use around the house to do everything from reach coffee mugs, grab stuff out of cabinets, clean up, and much more. If I add a lanyard into the equation, I have the device I've used about a dozen times to pick up my cell phone and even heavier items off of the floor. In a nutshell, I've come up with a bunch of thrown together contraptions to aid myself in my day to day life.

Now let me just say that I think all people are resourceful in their own way. And I guess being cripple myself, I am somewhat biased. But I'm convinced that individuals like myself are the most resourceful people there out here. My reason for this is quite simple. When you're not physically capable of doing certain shit, you gotta build/create something to do it. In reality, any time someone is repeatedly in situations or environments that they have to adapt to, they eventually adapt. It's just that people in similar walks of life, pun intended, have to adapt all the time. Therefore, we're constantly solving complex problems of our own using ordinary means to solve them. So I don't think that people in my position are somehow able to access a higher percentage of the human brain. However, we are forced into having a unique perspective on things and therefore are able to solve problems in creative ways. Whether it's wedging my wheels in between doors to then swing them open, or constructing tools and gadgets to carry or hook things to my chair, I've had to be creative to function at the highest levels in this inaccessible world. Plus, to accomplish things that so many take for granted, I need the added help my contraptions offer.

So the next time you just happen to stumble upon an episode of MacGyver, which I can't even remember seeing in even the past 10 years, remember what I said. I'm pretty sure the original MacGyver either couldn't walk, hear, see, or was differently-abled in some other way. You think he came up with all those ingenious solutions without the need to overcome challenges in his daily life? Cripple Please!
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