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[culture] Social invisibility and mobility - Lakeshore
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Jay Lake
Date: 2013-07-21 06:37
Subject: [culture] Social invisibility and mobility
Security: Public
Tags:california, child, conventions, culture, events, health, personal
I've written about social invisibility before, here and here at a minimum. Being at Comic-con while using an electric scooter for 99% of my mobility needs has introduced me personally to another long-standing form of social invisibility: visible disability.

Not that this is news in the slightest to anyone dependent on a scooter or a wheelchair. It was hardly news to me in the intellectual sense. But experientally, wow...

Let me say first and foremost that the vast majority of people here, both inside the convention and on the streets of San Diego's Gaslamp District, were either actively helpful or genially indifferent. Almost no one was deliberately rude or obstructive. Which, in a crowd of this size, speaks well of the folks at Comic-con and the citizen of San Diego. Certainly the law enforcement and security personnel connected with the convention were extremely observant, polite and helpful to me.

However, the amount of sheer cluelessness in the standing and walking behavior of my fellow human beings is deeply astounding. When I'm on foot, I don't suppose I notice the people walking backwards, suddenly sidestepping or reversing direction, walking in one direction while looking the other, or staring at their cell phone as they walk. I mean, they're present, but I can route around them with a step or two without difficulty, and tend not to even remark on what I've just seen.

But when cruising along in a powered chair that weighs over a hundred pounds and does not actually have brakes, these people are a menace to themselves and me.

Likewise people standing in curb cuts, or in narrow passages between (say) a street lamp and a piece of sidewalk signage, or clumping in groups amid a right-of-way. A danger to themselves and others.

The only open rudeness I've encountered is those people, the ones standing around, who seem offended to be asked to get out of the curb cut or to please step aside from the middle of the sidewalk. This is the same social philosophy that prompts people to take offense at being asked to stop talking in a movie theater: If they are being inconvenienced, the person inconveniencing them is unspeakably rude. I've had a couple of people say in disparaging tones, "Where are you going to go?" The answer to which, if I were feeling confrontational, is "Same place I was going before you got in my way."

The idea that they could step off the curb, or go around the other side of the lamp post, while I cannot do those things, is just too much for some people. It inconveniences them.

I recall some of these issues when [info]the_child was still of stroller age. But a stroller can be maneuvered off a curb or around an obstacle much more readily than an electric scooter. And the adult pushing the stroller isn't socially invisible. The guy sitting well below eye level is.

It's very strange. This is a world I'll participate in for a few weekends of my life, renting a scooter here and at Worldcon, and that's about it. But my experience in this powered chair has convinced me that everyone ought to spend a few days in a wheelchair or scooter, just so they can see what we all do and few us ever recognize ourselves as doing.

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Msconduct
User: msconduct
Date: 2013-07-21 15:52 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yes, yes, yes and yes, other than one small point: my visually impaired business partner has a violent allergy to the "try the disability for a day" model, since in her experience it frequently leads to people who try it assuming that they now know exactly what it's like to have that disability. Oh no they don't, and their assumption of expertise can be teeth-grindingly annoying.
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Swan Tower
User: swan_tower
Date: 2013-07-21 17:25 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I've never been in a scooter, but I do indeed notice the cluelessness (at least some of the time -- there's probably a percentage that flies under my radar anyway). It drives me up the wall, and I try not to engage in such behaviors myself. Especially the one that involves looking in one direction while walking in another.
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Karen
User: klwilliams
Date: 2013-07-21 17:37 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I experienced this at a comic book convention in San Francisco when I was on crutches. I wasn't invisible, but the cluelessness made walking dangerous. Plus, I was so slow I didn't get to the next panel until after all the non-crutch people got there, so they'd given away the reserved handicapped seating, because no handicapped people were there. Um, duh. No more comic book conventions for me.

Now that I'm using a walker, at least I'm standing up but the invisibleness is starting to encroach. People who see me are very nice, but I'm starting to get militant about the handicapped stall in restrooms.
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Skellington
User: skellington1
Date: 2013-07-22 18:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Ohhh, the danger of crutches. I was on them for about a year (sometimes both, sometimes just one) when I was in middle school, and then for a few months at a time in several other instances, and it's far to easy for someone to kick a crutch out from under you in a crowd. And people get irritated because your crutches take up space/are awkward -- I remember arguing with teachers and other students who wanted to take them away from me and lean them somewhere 'out of the way' -- i.e., where I couldn't get to them. Drove me nuts!
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Karen
User: klwilliams
Date: 2013-07-22 19:32 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
People are constantly trying to move my walker away to "get it out of the way", too. I won't let them. These are my legs, damnit!
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Skellington
User: skellington1
Date: 2013-07-22 19:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Exactly!

If/when I'm back in need of mobility assists again, I'll be much firmer about it -- at the time, I was dealing with being 13 as well, at the age where you already feel you stick out like a sore thumb and everyone just thinks you're a pain, and I sometimes let people do it... and then just tried to suck up how helpless it made me feel. In retrospect I get a little pissed on behalf of thirteen-year-old me!
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Karen
User: klwilliams
Date: 2013-07-22 20:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
As a 13-year-old I can see how adults would brush aside your needs. I'm 50, and only started having mobility issues a couple of years ago. Since most of my jobs have been the kind where I'm in charge, I have no problem using that entitlement to ask people to move out of handicapped seats on the train or bus (for me or for other handicapped people who are being ignored and are too polite/shy to ask), or to ask hotels for free valet parking if there are no handicapped parking spots left, and so on. I hope you don't have to use crutches again, at least not any time soon.
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Skellington
User: skellington1
Date: 2013-07-22 20:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Oh, excellent -- Use that aura of authority! :D Heh -- I know I'd have no trouble being assertive now. Thank goodness you only have to be a teenager once. :P

And thanks. :) Nothing on the horizon -- all the surgeries at age 13 seem to have done their work pretty well! -- but one never knows with bodies, does one?
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mmegaera
User: mmegaera
Date: 2013-07-21 18:29 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Heck, I'm able-bodied and I've had people walk into me because they weren't paying attention to where they're going. The idea of having this be the default must be frustrating beyond belief.
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martianmooncrab
User: martianmooncrab
Date: 2013-07-21 19:29 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
you should put little stickers on the scooter denoting your "kills" as you run over or bump into stupid/oblivous people. You were probably an Ace in about 15 minutes.

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When life gives you lemmings...
User: danjite
Date: 2013-07-21 22:12 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
As an attendant I have often been in the situation where the person I am with is ignored by customer facing staff and I have been expected to speak for them, as if they were deaf and mute as opposed to having bad hips.

However, many is the time we fly international and get wheeled right past customs without so much as a by-your-leave, as the airport attendants have more chairs to push!
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inflectionpoint
User: inflectionpoint
Date: 2013-07-21 22:22 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
That's lousy experience.

Sadly, I find lack of awareness of personal space to be endemic to fannish "culture" to the point where I'm taking a break from it.

I learned how much space I take up and I learned how to not get in the way and how to move around others when I waitressed. I've never forgotten that skill.

Some of those people just don't care. And that's really sad. I can't believe that they are unable of learning how to make room for all, and how to do some of the anticipation and moving aside for others, I think they just don't give a damn.

And that is very very sad.
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They Didn't Ask Me
User: dr_phil_physics
Date: 2013-07-22 01:27 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
That makes sense. When I started using a cane, I found that most people were helpful, but some didn't want to make way. But with a cane I am at eye level. And I find people with canes, scooters or wheelchairs are more solicitous of each other.

Dr. Phil
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alumiere
User: alumiere
Date: 2013-07-22 05:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I've spent many cons with a cane and/or chair (including Dragon Cona and SDCCs), and days at amusement parks with the same.

Let me just say that people are perhaps more oblivious at cons to those of us walking with aids than of chairs or scooters. The backing up, not paying attention to where they're going, etc was ridiculous in the days before ubiquitous smartphones. And particularly dangerous when they kick your cane out from under you repeatedly. At least when I'm in a chair they're not going to knock me over. It makes conventions less than fun, as I find spending an entire day in a chair hurts a lot, but I'm much more likely to be hurt walking with a cane.

On the other hand, an amusement park is just hateful when you're disabled. Not only are the patrons totally oblivious, but often the staff are rude as well. I'm a coaster junkie, and I love amusement parks, but I've skipped going with my friends the last few years because I'm tired of the hassle. I get that I'm disabled and asking for access to 'extreme' rides, but I'm fine to ride those things, just not to walk up the three fucking flights of stairs from the main entrance. And as part of being accessible, the staff needs to not be dicks about disabled patrons leaving their canes, crutches, or chairs in the station while they ride, and having them given back so they can get off the ride (which they often are).
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Lethran: Disrupter
User: gwyd
Date: 2013-07-23 02:15 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Disrupter
I use a crutch and I hate that thing where it's considered acceptable to kick it out from under me also. I also hate that it's considered okay to push me over if they want to get past my in crowded situations.
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User: petrea_mitchell
Date: 2013-07-22 17:17 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Question from an ignorant able-bodied person: could you please expand on "does not actually have brakes"? There's *some* way of slowing down, right? What kind of deceleration characteristics are you dealing with?

It's never occurred to me to wonder about this before. I think I have always unconsciously assumed that there *are* brakes and that a scooter would be able to slow down about as fast as it can speed up.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2013-07-22 23:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
They don't have brakes per se. They do have a deadman's switch, in effect. When you let go of the accelerator, the scooter rolls to a stop. It doesn't go very fast, and stops in a fairly short distance, but there is no equivalent to an emergency braking maneuver in an automobile or bike.

You can't just stop. All you can do is quit going.
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User: petrea_mitchell
Date: 2013-07-23 01:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Thanks! I'm going to pass a link to this post and a couple ideas on raising awareness among pedestrians to a certain con-runners' mailing list...
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LiveJournal: pingback_bot
User: livejournal
Date: 2013-07-23 00:53 (UTC)
Subject: Lakeshore - [culture] Social invisibility and mobility
Keyword:pingback_bot
User natf referenced to your post from Lakeshore - [culture] Social invisibility and mobility saying: [...] to walk is similar if to a lesser extent. Lakeshore - [culture] Social invisibility and mobility [...]
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Lethran: Angel
User: gwyd
Date: 2013-07-23 02:12 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Angel
I hate all of those. (I get them with my crutch or when I am in a scooter).

The other two I'd add, is 1. people who allow their children to run unsupervised in shops. I am in constant danger of being knocked over or of stepping on them. I have been literally knocked into displays. I have been not able to stop or change direction fast enough and had the parents act as if it's shop how my fault their child was underfoot and got knocked.

2. People who cut in front of me in lines on the assumption that their time is somehow more important than mine. I call people out on this routinely. One of the things I like about the post office is that the postal workers will order people back when they see it happening. Library, Physician's offices, and stores will all generally allow able bodied people to line cut in front of disabled ones unless I get aggressive about it.

Social invisibility is a real thing.
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mcjulie
User: mcjulie
Date: 2013-07-23 15:04 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
That sounds awful!

Actually, when I'm on foot all that stuff drives me crazy. I will never understand what causes people to think they can just step backwards at any time without looking. It makes me wish they would step in unpleasant things enough to train them out of it.
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Rick Moen
User: rinolj
Date: 2013-07-24 05:20 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Deirdre's usual solution (to people standing in everyone's way in places that are super-obviously inappropriate places to stand): She runs into them without slowing down.

At first, I was not at all certain this was a good idea. The more I thought about it, though, the better it accorded with the always laudable goal of reuniting action with consequence. The malefactors don't get actually hurt, but they get the message delivered in pretty much the only way they're ever get it.

Best Regards,
Rick Moen
rick@linuxmafia.com
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Menolly
User: nolly
Date: 2013-08-01 08:04 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I've been doing SDCC on a scooter for 4 or 5 years now. People who suddenly cut in front of me are most likely to get hit, thanks to inertia.

For getting through the crowds when there is only one way I can go -- the one ramp down to the Gaslamp that doesn't require going all the way down to the Convention Center stop, for instance, I simply speak up, a lot, so people are more aware I;m there. Sometimes I use the scooter's horn. I will say "Excuse me, need to get to the curb cut, please make way, excuse me, coming through..." etc. until I'm clear. Mostly it works.

The worst experiences I've had over the years were with camera crews filming in the Gaslamp, particularly on the sidewalk between the Gaslamp station and where the Blood Drive (where I'm staff) used to be (HBO had a Game of Thrones thing there this year, and we were across the street, in a larger space; it was much nicer.) Some of them simply will not step even six inches to the side, in which case I can, will, and did run over their feet. (The main offender I'm thinking of was rude about not moving, too.)

I got a little snark from a couple of guys when I was in a hurry to get somewhere and powering through a crowd, but nothing major.

A couple of years ago, I was having some serious issues with my battery, and people were incredibly helpful. At one point, it died on the way back from the Hilton, and someone pushed me inside so I could get to a plug. Another time that year, I was trying to get to a webcomic's meetup in the Gaslamp when the battery died, a block or two from where I was headed. I though I would try to just push it the rest of the way, and charge over dinner, but in trying to push the cross button and get back to the scooter in time to get it across, I lost my balance and fell, pretty hard. Several people stopped to help me, and one gave me and my scooter a ride back to the trolley station where I was parked. The kindness of strangers can be wonderful.

I did have a staff strapped to my handlebars this year, which probably helped a bit with visibility, but I haven't had that in the past.

The only issues of note that I had this year were 1) my front wheel getting caught in a hole caused by a missing brick at the crossing to the Convention Center station. That was Preview Night, and I could have used both more help and more sympathy than I received at the time. Noticed after I'd gotten on the trolley that I'd actually cut my finger trying to get out -- the rubber covers on my control levers disappeared quite some time ago, and there's a bit of a sharp spot on one, which I hadn't noticed before; one of the people near me on the trolley offered me some napkins to clean and control the bleeding until I got to where I could get a band-aid on it.

2) Later in the con, on my way in one morning, my trolley had to slam on the brakes suddenly. I veeeery sloooowly toppled over, think real life bullet time, into the people standing in front of me, slowing the fall more. No injuries to me or others; some folks righted my scooter, others helped me up, or offered; I apologized to those who'd inadvertently cushioned my landing, and all was well. I did have to tell one of the guys trying to haul me up to stop pulling my arm off, but I appreciated the thought. :)
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