How Can We Respect People with Disabilities? Start by Listening.

I am pleased to introduce social worker and writer Jeff Flodin as a guest blogger today. Jeff was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa at age 35 and has worked with two Seeing Eye dogs: Sherlock from 2003 to 2010, and Randy since March, 2010. Writing has been Jeff’s primary vocation for 10 years, and he is currently working on a short story collection about vision loss.

by Jeff Floddin

Jeff Flodin with his Seeing Eye dog.

Jeff Flodin with his Seeing Eye dog.

With the arrival of each season— baseball, football, hockey and Christmas — I mosey over to my neighborhood barber shop for a haircut. It’s a short walk and with Randy the dog guiding the way my mind is free to wander like a free range chicken. But I tune in the traffic pattern as we near the corner of Ashland and Foster. As I calculate the red light/green light sequence, I feel a tug on my sleeve.

“You get on the bus here,” says the little old lady, pulling me like a truant child toward what must be the bus stop.

“Not today, ma’am,” I reply. “Today I’m just crossing the street to the barber shop.”

“No, this is where you get on the bus,” she says, raspy and urgent.

“No, I don’t,” I say. “You get on the bus. I cross the street.” I fake left and run right. But she grabs my sleeve again and swings me around.

“I know you want to be helpful and I appreciate that,” I say. “But I’m really not interested in getting on the bus. I’m interested in crossing Foster.” I take one step and then realize that, in the sleeve-tugging and swinging around, I’ve lost my bearings. She senses my confusion and leads me toward the bus stop again, all the while shouting, “The bus is coming! The bus is coming!”

I hear the bus stop and the door open—whoosh! —and the old lady yelling, ”That man needs help!” to the bus driver, who now stands next to me asking, “You need help?”

“Yes, get me away from her for starters,” I tell him. “Then point me due south so I can cross Foster.” He does this without question or comment.

Thus, having regained my sense of place in the universe, I progress toward my goal, wondering where I’d be if not for the kindness of strangers.

A version of this post originally appeared on Jalapeños in the Oatmeal, Jeff Flodin’s blog about digesting vision loss.


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  1. Beth Finke Says:

    Oh, Larry, thank you for taking the time to leave this lovely comment, and especially for surviving all those surgeries as a child to end up serving our country through your work in the Navy. Fabulous.

  2. Larry Skaggs Says:

    I wanted to take this moment to thank you for a life changing experience back in 1973 & 1974. I was sponsored via the Easter Seals to your camp in Roanoke, Va. I was 10 years old my first year and WHAT A BLAST! I never had so much fun in all my life and I still remember it like it was yesterday (not 44 years ago). I have a rare birth defect (Arthogryposis) and was operated on by the Shriners in PA for the first 13 years of my life being in for months at a time every year. But I have no regrets because of the Shriners they got me walking and able to live a normal life include being in Civil Service for the Navy since 1983 as an Electronics/Avionics Technician.

    But those two years at camp up in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains was the best experience that I had as a kid and I want to say :
    THANK YOU and GOD BLESS. It’s a wonderful thing that you do!

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