Tuesday, February 22, 2011

visuals count!

She lives somewhere around here, and I want to find her. Sara Hendren, a local artist and mother of two, has been quietly upgrading handicapped stickers. And now, thanks to the Boston Globe, not so quietly. The current symbol for handicapped access bears no resemblance to my college professor, pulling on his leather gloves before rolling down the ramp. The guy moved. The current image, though, is appallingly passive.

So, woot! for Sara Hendren and her sticker campaign. Want to help her? You can get stickers here, while they last. Just include your mailing address, and she'll send 5 to you, free! For the Imperfects, she's offering us the perfect follow-up to a conversation that the Eldest was roped into, oh, last winter.

MOOOOOM, we're late! Why are you driving past those spots - we're ALways LATE and you never get a spot and those are empty and WHY?  Things degenerated a little at that point, and there was a certain amount of shrieking. I'm not too proud to admit that some of the shrieking was mine. But, mid-screech, I did note the opening I'd been given.

Later that night, I slid into the Eldest's room. What does 'handicapped' mean?

The kid glared. He did a lot of glaring that winter, so it just washed over me. I smiled, angelically, having discovered that this defused the glare - or possibly distilled it to a cranky but functional eye-roll.
It means you can't park there. He paused, mid-roll, and added, and that people can't walk.

If I told you that I leaned back, casually, at this point, you should assume that I was not grinning. But I might've looked like a happy geeking mama, who has spotted the metaphorical podium.

Insert the usual spiel about cap-in-hand, disabled people begging, etc. It's dead wrong, as I later discovered, but hey, made a great entry point into the discussion. The kid looked thoughtful. Frowned.

Okay, so what's a better way to say 'handicapped?'

The Eldest played along, only rolling his eyes the barest minimum of times needed to indicate his extreme level of patience.
can't walk 
got hurt 
born that way
can't catch it 
has a challenge 
can't do some things? 
can't do some things easily 
has medical stuff

We stared at the last word. Disabled, I said, grimly, and remembered the last time I'd used that word, and the stiff, defensive faces of the people who didn't - quite - hear it.  Yeah, said the Eldest. So what? Well, you and I and the IEP know that the Eldest should know exactly what. But lucky kid, he doesn't. So, I diagrammed it for him.


Remember "medical?"
The Eldest blinked. Yeah.
Dude, some people think that's YOU.
The Eldest bristled. What? That's absurd!  I just have to take care of things, and be prepared - and yeah, i can't head the ball in soccer, but I can play - and you know, I make a great goalie and -  the kid's eyerolling vanished in a flare of indignation, and bam! game on, mama.

Hey, I'm not arguing. I waved my hands as evidence of good will, good-guy status, and general on-your-sideness. That list has an awful lot of 'no,' or 'can't' hiding in it. So, what is a better way of saying this?

Right. The kid squared his shoulders, and went so far as to lean forward.

has to be prepared 
limits (but I can still play! the Eldest protested. Hm, I said. True.)
might take longer 
go a different way
uses tools (doesn't everybody? the Eldest asked, and I grinned)
has fine print on the contract

Are we done? we thought it over. Almost: 


The Eldest nodded. That one is right. It has less - can't - in it. It has fun.
I gave up, and grinned. Kid, it has YOU in it.

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