Let's get something out in the open first. I have a physical disability,
a fairly severe one, and I look pretty damn disabled. I mean come on,
my feet are practically honey crullers! So I don't blame people when
they perceive me as a person with a disability. What I do have an issue
with are people who feel as though that gives them license to patronize
or coddle me. Because the fact is that I am a 25 year old high honours
graduate who has had been fortunate to have had more experience in life
than most people could ask for. I have shown Carleton, I hope anyway,
that I wanted to make a positive difference for this school. I think I
have made that difference. So don't patronize me for it!
The culprit, and the reason for this note? None other than our
distinguished president Dr. Roseann O'Reilly Runte. In every one of my
dealings with her she has addressed me in the same tone as you would a
six year old. In our latest encounter, her honey-saturated voice assured
me that "No one would expects you to participate in Frosh Week", and
added "You would be able to watch". And yes, the rumors are true, she
has patted me on the head.
I don't know if this makes her feel good, or whether she wants to
appease some higher power by being overly sympathetic to the crippled
boy. What I do know is that it disgusts me. It disgusts me that someone
who claims to be an academic and the leader of a university can be this
stupid! It is demeaning and discriminatory. More than that it is
disturbing that a person in that position still defines me by my
disability. Have we not moved past these days? If Dr. Runte is any
example, apparently not.
So what am I going to do about it? Unfortunately, to change an attitude
that is so engrained in ignorance, takes more than one guy writing angry
e-mails. But I promise anyone who is reading this that I WILL NOT shake
Dr. Runte's hand as I cross the stage to graduate, because I do not
believe that she respects me as a person. If she did she would talk to
me, and not to my cerebral palsy.
And I know that I'm not alone in getting this treatment. I urge anyone
who has had similar experiences to pick up this fight where I leave it,
because until people like Dr. Runte can recognize what their doing is
offensive, then individuals with disabilities will be subject to
I'm not cool with that.