By now, it’s inescapable. Your portable devices chime, vibrate, or pop up alerts to get your attention. Even if do-not-disturb is enabled, you can’t seem to shake it off while you’re doing research papers, or just innocently surfing the web. Social networks may be great for checking in with family, but you have to navigate around posts reacting to the situation at hand. The more you try and avoid it, the more it knocks on your brain, loudly, demanding attention, demanding us to react. Once again, another shooting has come to light, and the media sure knows how to do its job. Despite whatever we do and whether we want to avoid it or not, we’re given little choice in the matter because we do, on some level need to stay informed. Besides, the media gurus know that within many of us is a heart that wants to care, wants to reach out in love, wants to weep inwardly to mourn the fallen and pray for the ones they left behind. There is also the anger most of us feel when we see that America has failed, yet again, to protect her people and find a solution to this very pressing problem.
I’m not at all suggesting that we should get political. Heaven only knows that the people in such positions of power aren’t doing anymore than yelling at their rivals across a sandbox of grown-up bullies who’d rather spend their time debating on the cause for this problem instead of finding a necessary end. We also, in case the higher-ups haven’t yet noticed, are still dealing with finding good jobs, inflation, the remaining blasted covid cells still hanging around like the stale bread some people might be too lazy to toss out, and let’s not forget each one of us are affected by the Russian war on Ukraine in various ways. It’s no surprise most of us want to just forget about these painful shootings and move on. We have so much to do and so little time, but for those who are still passionate about active shooter discussions, weapons, and preparedness drills for kids in school, why am I seeing little to nothing about how people with disabilities can be prepared and protected during these situations?
The recent Nashville shooting is another tragedy that took away precious lives, and my heart aches for each and every one of those who are left to deal with the pain. If you are reading this and have been affected in any way, I want you to know that there are people who care, and they are all crying with you, some perhaps in other corners of the world, who probably experience fewer shootings in their country and look down on America in horror and shock. How can this continue? There are too many people whose lives were snatched away too soon, some of them little darlings who have barely begun to think about their own future. Please remember that you are not alone, and there are people both near and far who support you, love you, and wish you and your loved ones peace in this chaotic time. More importantly, every single individual has the right to live. By living, I don’t just mean to stay alive. Everyone deserves to enjoy life, to find meaning in the things they do while they’re here.
Over the past week and a half, a couple shootings took place much closer to home, not mass shootings like the ones we often hear about, but still, these were active shooter situations. Both of these shootings occurred in shopping centers down the street from us, and both of these places are frequently visited by my husband and myself. One of these is our local mall, where the first shooting took place in the parking lot outside the JC Penney. A few days later, another shooting took place inside Target, in another shopping center that boasts a Bed Bath and Beyond, Pet-Co, and other stores. Thankfully, no one was injured, but the shooting started between two people inside the store who got into a fight, and a gun was eventually drawn. Of course, customers had to be evacuated, and the ordinary Target enjoyed by many local residents and tourists, had become a crime scene. Naturally, this added more fear and anxiety to an already tense situation, and people around us began to talk, and panic. Today, the fear reached a level I wasn’t prepared for, and it is this exact reason why I’m writing this post.
My husband is blind, has seizures and cerebral palsy. He is unable to travel independently, and his slow walking speed and inability to walk far distances means adaptations need to be made to his travel plans. Fortunately, my husband is a member of a local organization that sends living skills instructors a couple times a week to help him do things around the home and community. Sometimes, community outings can mean grabbing a bite to eat, a trip to the library, a ride to the doctors, and of course, shopping trips. My husband frequents the local Target to find new clothes with his worker. It’s a decent place to get clothes nearby, and his worker can provide information like color, price and assist him with whatever he needs. Anyone who ever works with my husband has to practice extreme kindness and patience, as his condition means he will most likely rely on the caregiver or whoever he is with at that moment, to help him make decisions. I admire people who are truly in this line of work to make a difference, but the people with that kind of patience and training are few and far between. Most of these workers who have cases like my husband put on them, are young and inappropriately trained, like the one my husband is working with now. When she arrived, the shooting was the first thing on her mind, and her talk this morning sadly demonstrates something many people with disabilities are currently dealing with.
Her talk basically went like this. She came in, exchanged greetings, and sat down at the dining table to begin her talk. “There was a shooting at Target last week. I don’t know if you were aware of that,” she says. “There was also a shooting outside the JC Penney before that. It was the same guys, and they found like 40 bullets everywhere.” At this point, I must pause and say, while I watch the news because I like to be aware of what goes on, my husband only hears it when he’s in the room with me. It’s not something he’s interested in, so I try to keep him up to date as best I can. I hadn’t yet discussed the Target incident with him because I was swamped with school work.
Anyway, she continues by saying, “Because of these shootings, we’ll have to change our plans a little bit. If we need to go to Target or the mall, we might have to do it in a way where I just go, or you can come with me and wait outside. If a shooting happens, I’d be afraid I wouldn’t get you out in time.”
I imagine some of my fellow disabled readers are probably pulling their hair out at this last statement. I know. I down right lost my cool with her this morning. This was the same woman who also asked me this morning, twice in fact, if I knew the difference between the maintenance man spraying bleach or paint in my bathroom. Last I checked, being blind didn’t mean you had a diminished ability to differentiate the smell between two very different chemicals, but hey, what do I know? In any event, before I get into what really bothered me about her statement, let’s think about it for a second. I know she probably meant well, and in her own mind, she probably thought she would be protecting him. Also, with this woman in her 20s, with a family to support, we need to consider her feelings in this situation as well. It’s so tragic that we have to take so many precautions these days. I can’t even begin to imagine how kids feel each time they leave their house for school every morning, wondering if they’ll go home again. I wish I had the solution for this issue. I love each of you and everyone deserves to live their best life. However, I can expose a glaring oversight that needs to be taken into consideration as soon as possible, so we can brainstorm and come up with plans to help disabled individuals and their caregivers be more prepared for these types of situations.
With that said, her statement bothered me for several reasons. first, because of her own fears of a shooting that we have no control over when and where they could happen, she is depriving my husband of an experience he rarely gets to enjoy, shopping and taking in the atmosphere. He can’t be actively involved in the shopping process this way. For clothes especially, he loves to feel what he’s buying and try it on just like everyone else. We live in isolation and my husband only leaves the house when he needs to go somewhere. I haven’t stepped out in over a month, and I won’t be going anywhere at least for a couple weeks, until I go donate blood. How could anyone in their right mind knowingly isolate someone who hasn’t had a fair chance in life, someone who couldn’t even get accepted into the local paralympics because they didn’t have anyone in the program who could help him? I understand this worker may not be aware of the past denials my husband has sadly experienced, but there’s no reason to continue this cycle because of personal fears. This demonstrates poor sensitivity training, and probably is a good sign this lady doesn’t have the right attitude for the job.
The next problem is the message she is unwittingly spreading. By saying how worried she is about not getting my husband evacuated in time, she is basically saying, “Because you’re so slow, we may not be able to escape, and I don’t want to lose my life while trying to get you out.” This is perhaps the worst part of all this, and the hardest for me to discuss. I’m in tears as I write this. How could you, even if you’re not outwardly saying it, decide that someone else’s life isn’t as important as yours? Sorry Jeremy. I can’t take you inside of anymore stores because there might be shooters in there. Sorry Jeremy. We can’t do X Y Z anymore because of the shootings, because I don’t want to be killed trying to save you. Oh, and guess what? You don’t get to do those things anymore, but I can. While you’re at home, I get to go anywhere I wanna go in my own car whenever I want. Yeah, there may be shootings, but at least I can get out in time because I’m not dragging around a disabled man.
Does anybody, anyone who is reading this, see what is really going on here? Does anyone care just how wrong this is?
Finally, we need to talk about the most important aspect of all, safety, for all parties involved. Let’s say she does end up driving my husband to the store, to make him feel like he’s getting out of the house. Does it not occur to her that while she’s inside shopping, a shooter could just as easily be located outside the store? What if someone with bad intentions decides to attack my husband, who is alone in a locked car and won’t see them coming? How does she expect to keep him safe? Also, because she came up with this plan on the spot, this suggests to me that there is little thought in preparing these workers to know what to do in an active shooter situation when they are with their clients. Some disabled individuals may not understand what is going on around them, and it is up to the caregivers to act swiftly and calmly to keep everyone safe. Please, tell me what is being done to consider the safety of disabled individuals and caregivers. I’d really like to know. we can’t keep ignoring this with shootings on the rise. Why am I seeing nothing being done to ensure the safety of people with disabilities? This must be discussed further.
While I write this blog post as a source of therapy and to share our story, the main reason I’m here is to spread awareness. We can’t ignore a safety issue that I feel keeps getting overlooked, and disabled people have the right to live a life of joy and experience the way everyone else does. It’s up to us to make sure the world is aware, and can finally, hopefully, step up and take the necessary preventative measures. If you are reading this and wish there was something you can do, well you’re in luck. You can call up your local schools and question officials as to what plans are in place to protect anyone with a disability on campus. You can approach a local media outlet with this issue and hope it starts an important discussion. I’m deeply considering doing the same. You can call local institutions who serve individuals with disabilities and see if they have conducted any training or plan to do so. We can be mindful of the people around us and show concern when someone’s safety is at risk. There are so many things we can do as a community to make sure everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience while out and about. Where there’s a will, there is always a way.
To anyone affected by the many shootings, again I extend my love and wishes for abundant comfort and peace. To the caregivers, educators, and workers helping individuals with disabilities, please know that you are appreciated for your hard work and sacrifice. Your lives are just as precious and I hope none of you ever have to face such a dangerous situation. But, we can’t control the universe and these things do happen. You guys need to approach these subjects with proper sensitivity and respect to disabled persons in the first place. You are also given an important job, and must make sure your client lives as independent a life as possible. Keeping them locked in houses and cars prevents them from living that life, and certainly does little to account for their safety. Changes have to be made. They must. The good news is that it’s never too late.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I wish my readers nothing but an abundance of blessings and joy. Please stay safe, and I’ll see you on the other side. 🙂