Stacy Ellingen

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Stacy’s Journal: People with Disabilities Amongst the Most Vulnerable in Violent Situations

By: Stacy Ellingen
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Is it safe to go anywhere anymore?  Regardless of political beliefs, it’s a question is on many people’s minds lately.  Years ago, questions about safety weren’t very prevalent, but due to recent events, we have no choice but to consider “what would you do?”.  As unbelievably disheartening as it is, we have to think about what we would do in a violent situation.  While most people would know what to do (generally speaking) and could physically react to the situation, people with disabilities and health conditions don't have the ability to try to protect themselves.  Truthfully, we, people with disabilities, are among the most vulnerable in violent situations.

I’ve been watching the news coverage of all the horrific events going on, but I hadn’t really ever thought about what I would do if I was in a shooting situation until a friend tagged me in a Facebook post.  The post was written by a teacher in Ohio.  The day after the Florida school shooting, the teacher got the dreaded question from a student—“what will we do if a shooter comes in your room?”  The teacher explained that she cares about her students very much, but since she was in a wheelchair she couldn’t protect them like an able-bodied teacher would.  She told them to escape if they could and not to worry about her.  A student in a class then explained that they had already discussed it and if anything would happen they would carry her.  That post touched me on so many levels.  As I’ve explained in previous entries, if my circumstances were just a little different (mainly if I had the ability to speak), I would have been a teacher.  It made me think about how I would have responded to the question.  I would have said the exact same thing.  Of course, I’d want my students to escape if they could rather than worrying about me.

The post also made me think about other situations.  Unfortunately, these awful things seem to be happening all over the place in today’s world.  I’m blessed to have the cognitive ability to know what was happening, but physically, I wouldn’t be able to do much to protect myself or others.  I could move my wheelchair around, but I’m unable to get out of my chair myself.  I can kind of cover my head with my arms, but with cerebral palsy in exciting or stressful situations my body tends to really tense up.  I can only imagine how tense my muscles would be in a situation like that.  Oftentimes, under dangerous circumstances, you are supposed to be as quiet as possible.  For me, the harder I try to be quiet the more noise I unintentionally make.  It’s just the way my body unfortunately works.  Also, many times in those situations, herds of people often run to escape danger.  When a person uses a wheelchair or another mobility device, it’s often very difficult to navigate through a crowd of people. 

Those with mobility limitations aren’t the only ones more at risk in those violent situations.  People with intellectual disabilities may not understand what’s going on in dangerous circumstances.  This could cause behaviors that could provoke the situation even more.  Screaming and lashing out could attract the suspect’s attention.   Depending on the circumstances, running could also cause danger.  Some people with intellectual delays may not understand the importance of following directions under the circumstances.

It’s troublesome to me that this even has to be a topic of conversation.  As a person with a disability, it’s my reality that I’d very vulnerable in if I was ever in a violent situation.  Like most people, I’d rather have others save themselves than risk their life helping me; however, I truly believe most people in this world have a good heart and would risk their own life to save others.  It’s getting to the point where it’s a risk to even leave our homes, but we can’t let a few bad people ruin life for the rest of us.  Although, at times it’s hard to believe, the good still outweighs the bad in the world, and we have to continue living life like we always have.  If we put ourselves in a bubble, we would conceding be to those few evil people, and we don’t want to do the that! 


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