Monday, November 19, 2007

"No Longer a Burden"

We own a 1992 E-350 Ford van to carry my Braun wheelchair lift. The lift is as old as the van. Mechanical things break. The lift broke. That's not the point.

The point is that I was put on hold while I made an appointment to have the lift repaired, and I listened to a mini-commercial that included ...

"We wheel him right in the van where we can easily secure the wheelchair. He’s so glad not to feel as if he’s a burden And now, he goes with us to many events and functions. Dad hasn’t been this active in years, and now he’s once again a vital of our family."
I was operating on two cups of tea and feeling rather pricklish, and so I found the corporation's headquarters and left a comment on the website feedback form ...

"I was dismayed to hear the phrase feel like a burden anymore in one of the commercials being run on the telephone. Disability can be part of the natural process of life. To classify a person with a disability as a burden is to objectify that person. I'm not no one to demand politically-correct language. Nevertheless, I ask whomever wrote and approved this commercial to personalize this: would any of you like to be perceived as a burden because of a disability?"
I received an immediate response from the company, ending with "If you feel that we are objectifying those with disabilities then we will rectify the situation ... We did have our employees write the on-hold messages from their own experiences."

I have used a wheelchair for more than four decades, and I apparently have a flat arse and a chip on my shoulder, but it seems to me that mobility devices should be perceived as liberating rather than be linked to negative stereotypes.

Nevertheless, I think you person riding this planet sometimes feels like a burden at some point, and it may have nothing at all to do with disability.

Thus, even though it is perfectly logical for people with a disabilities to sometimes feel themselves a burden, I responded noting that the reference struck me as the wrong way to sell the devices that so enrich people's lives.

After all, to characterize oneself as a burden is to indulge in self-pity at worse and in self-indulgence at best.

And pity means objectification.

After nearly 50 years riding through this world on my fanny, I've learned to rely on the philosophy expressed in an old song -- "Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative." As such, I finished my note by saying that my feeling is that the burden sentence, and the phrase about being a vital part of the family, are both negative in connotation. Both could be eliminated, and the message would then stress the positive things that the company might accomplish for a person with a disability.

The upshot? New telephone on-hold messages after the holidays, and there'll be no more burden references.

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