Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tiny Tim doesn't want your sympathy

A Christmas Carol.  It's a fun book and an entertaining movie for this time of year.

We’ve all seen it.  Ebenezer Scrooge and Bah Humbug and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future….  And Tiny Tim.
I don't generally mix my work and my blog but here it is...I just started thinking about this today.

Tiny Tim is one of the early figures of disability in film.  We see him in A Christmas Carol on his crutches and we feel so sorry for him.  We feel pity. And that’s what Scrooge feels when he finally has his epiphany in the movie.  He feels pity for Tiny Tim and wants to help him. And then Tiny Tim becomes “special” and inspirational

Well I’ll tell you what.

People with disabilities don’t want Pity!  And people with disabilities don’t want to be seen as inspirational either!
Here's my take of the ghosts of past, present, and future and what they have to tell us about Tiny Tim.

The ghost of Tiny Tim’s Christmas Past

Long ago people with disabilities were put in institutions.  They were seen as “less than” as burdensome and not at all part of our society.  There was no expectation of education or career.  Tiny Tim would shake his tiny head at this.  The ghost of Christmas Past wants you to know that Tiny Tim deserves better.  He wants neither your pity nor your reverence. He just wants to go to school and graduate. He wants to get a job and become a contributing member of society.  Tiny Tim wants to be empowered to live a life of full inclusion! 

The ghost of Tiny Tim’s Christmas Present

Today, things are getting better.  Tiny Tim can get a full and inclusive education.  If he’s having trouble finding work or with his Independent Living Skills, he can call on any variety of community organizations that are there to help people with disabilities.  Still there are attitudinal barriers and people might still look with pity or reverence...there are restaurants and shops that are still not accessible to Tim and his family. Schools still sometimes keep him separate from the other kids. He might get bullied.

The ghost of Tiny Tim’s Christmas Future

The ghost of Tiny Tim’s Christmas future is not a scary grim reaper—no.  In my mind this ghost is using a shiny golden power wheelchair.  He’s wearing a lovely robe of velvet green with a crown of poinsettia on his head. And he points his strong, long finger to Tim’s future and this is what he sees:

Tim is working a job that satisfies him.  He is no longer “tiny” because he’s a grown up.  He still has a disability; his crutches are simply assistive devices that help him get around. He has a wife and children and a nice little house in the city.  He is fully included in his community—his favorite restaurant has a ramp so that people of all mobility types can get in the doors.  His daughter put colored tape on his crutches to celebrate the holiday.  No one looks at Tim as he goes into the restaurant with his family because he’s just a man having dinner out.  He pays his bill with the money he earns at his job and no one is amazed that he was able to pay “despite” his disability.  He goes home with his family and falls asleep, satisfied to be in a world where accommodations and accessibility are second nature. And the snow (which will be shoveled first thing in the morning so that everyone can use the sidewalks) falls softly outside.
I really love my job at IndependenceFirst.  I am sure grateful for that. And I hope my imaginary ghost of Christmas Future is right.


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