Over the weekend, a nasty incident trended in social media. It involved the r-word, quoted below. The similarly nasty sentiments behind reactions to what happened may be familiar to some of you.
A couple had brought their four-year-old with developmental delays to a Yankees game. They captured it on video when a guy sitting in front of them turned around, after their boy likely kicked his seat, berated them and said, "Because your eff-ing child's retarded."
That's pretty despicable. So were some comments made when the NY Daily News posted its article on Facebook. "If this child is so sensitive and disabled, why did the parents bring him to a packed sports game?" asserted one guy. "Why would you take a developmentally disabled child to place that has screaming, yelling, people jumping around plus loud music and commentary?" noted another.
What?! The answer, of course, is: Exactly why you'd bring any child to a baseball game.
Here's how parents of children with disabilities and adults with disabilities responded when I asked them to explain, on Facebook, why a child with disabilities has the same right as anyone to enjoy public activities, events and spaces. I can't believe we even have to discuss this, let alone defend this, but sadly, we do.
"My goal–actually, I see it as my duty—as Amber's mom is to be sure she has a good life. That includes having fun doing things that all kids, teens and young adults enjoy. The reason being ADA is that all places, spaces, facilities and fun stuff needs to be barrier-free and accessible to everyone. We have a minor league baseball game in our county and Amber loves going to games. I would rather watch moss grow, but I don't go for myself. I am a mom, so I go because it makes my (adult) kid happy."—Teresa B.
"Our children can't learn to cope in environments that are difficult if they aren't exposed to them. If my child was loud, kicking a chair or seeming to be disruptive, usually I have said something like 'My son has autism and we are trying to figure out how to enjoy this movie/restaurant/baseball game/amusement park/etc.' For the most part, people have been respectful but I have had the 'If they can't behave, they shouldn't be here' comments to which my response is something along the lines of, 'Being rude isn't really behaving but they let you in."—Tracy C.
"Because our existence is not an inconvenience. Because your discomfort does not override our right to exist in public and enjoy public events. Because when your non disabled child yells or kicks a seat, the general public does not wonder why that child was allowed out of the house. Because we can."—Tara C.
"We've taken our son to NBA and NHL games regularly for nearly 20 years. We started as he loves watching the games on TV—even at a young age, he knew the players' names, jersey numbers and positions played. He developed an interest in both sports, and what parent wouldn't want to build on that interest?"—Lisa P.
"My daughter is a human being. That's why she has the same rights as anyone else to be anywhere in public. We had a moment in Ikea just the other day, when my daughter accidentally grabbed a display item and it couldn't be rung up. It was a Saturday morning, and there was a line of fifteen people behind me. It was just a notebook, nothing we needed. My daughter was working hard to process the disappointment, but what the world saw was this 14-yr-old yelling and storming off only to come back to yell some more. However, the young man behind me stepped in and offered to run a mile through Ikea to get a replacement notebook. I even said 'It's like a mile away' and he said 'It's okay, my sister is like your daughter.' Lucky us, we got the guy who 'got it' behind us in line. However, my daughter managed to process it all terrifically, and no new notebook was necessary. And I got to leave both proud of my daughter, but reminded that for every jackhole who yells at a 4-yr-old at the ballpark, there's this guy, willing to run a gauntlet for strangers."—Phoebe H.
"I work with kids both with and without additional needs (and I majored in special educaiton as well) and all I can think of is that my students should enjoy the same things as everyone else! My students, no matter what their background or needs or talents, all have the same rights. Kids are kids are by no means perfect. They are loud, they are squirmy, they are just trying to live and enjoy life like the rest of us. I hope that this event does not deter her or other families with kids with additional needs from going out and letting their kids know that they are valuable members of society. Don't let the haters get ya down!"—Priscilla B.
"We bring him because if all he has are limitations, he will never find his abilities."—Jill M.
"There are so many things my son can't experience like other kids that when we find something he enjoys, I'm not willing to deny him that feeling on the off chance that he might annoy someone. I am good about being proactive and introducing ourselves, and him, to people around us who might be affected if he gets loud (which is rare) and to just let us know if he's bothering them. So far, people respond very well to that and we haven't really had any problems. Knock on wood."—Amber M.
"I flew with my son who has CP and athetosis, constant movement. He tried so hard not to kick the seat in front of him, but it happened. The lady yelled at him to stop. I let it go the first time. The second time I told her, 'I will tell my child what he needs to do....' I have a shirt I used to put on him that said, 'Keep calm, it's only CP."—Alicia M.
"If you don't want to interact with all members of society, you have the right to be the one to stay at home."—Stef D.