My little red tether is my anchor in running with my friends. A beautiful guide dog has been my tether/anchor in mobility and independence for 17 years: 1. Pantera 2. Cricket, and now my beautiful 3. Georgina (Georgie). A life of family and friends is my joy and anchor in life.

The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it. CC Scott

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Lemonade Update

I returned home from an excellent conference with my colleagues. When we are out and about, they are so impressed with Cricket. At the office, she doesn't have the opportunity to demonstrate her many talents :). 

Dr. Wolfelt quoted: "You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, "I lived through this. I can take the next step that comes along." Eleanor Roosevelt.

 I came home and said: "Steve, we've got to go to Ann Taylor in City Creek." As mentioned earlier, I was in City Creek on Tuesday and could not enter this store even with a supportive friend. I was surprised that I still felt fearful to return to the scene of this discriminatory experience. I try to live my life out of love and not from a place of fear. I recognized there was still some more work to be done inside me! As Steve, Cricket and I walked near Ann Taylor, I felt pretty anxious! I walked inside the store and was ready to turn around. Steve said we've got to at least walk past a sales associate :)! I walked to the back of the store, Steve described a few clothing items to me, and we walked out. He indicated that the sales associate acknowledged us by smiling. Not the most helpful to a blind person, but that sure beats being told to leave the store and then false statements issued.

I walked out of the store feeling a greater sense of freedom and choice. It is up to me whether I choose to go in or not. I left feeling like a burden had been lifted and instead of being fearful to return to the store it was simply now my choice. I choose not return to this store at this time. It was dark with just my phone, but we took a quick shot as I left feeling relieved :).
(Wearing my Toms that I love!)
I had hoped to make lemonade out of this experience. It would be easy, I thought. This corporation would be appalled that this experience had happened and would take immediate action to make sure this did not happen again. A corporation as big as Ann Taylor could use this negative experience to make a clear apology, educate their employees and support the person that had this discriminatory experience.  Well, I quickly learned, if you followed the thread of their actions, that was not going to be the lemonade that would occur. So far they have missed the mark of turning a negative experience into what could have been a very positive for their corporation and instead chose to hope it fades away over time.  The problem is by their choice not to take proactive positive action its only a matter of time before another person with a disability will be discriminated against in some way.  Sad.

The lemonade that I believe did occur:

They did make a token donation to Guide Dogs for the Blind and received literature on how to further educate their employees on the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Although we have not heard back on how they have implemented this training, I certainly hope they have done so.  I hope that this is just one of many ways they will support guide dog teams in the future.

Support. I received incredible personal support from my family, friends, and so many people that I did not even know. I received calls and emails from people that I hadn't seen in a while! This was an unexpected, special dose of lemonade! I hope when this happens to someone else, they will feel of that same support and know that there is a community behind them to support. Each of us are valued and have the right to be treated with respect and dignity. I am touched and proud by the actions of my own daughter that started this dialogue. My children grew up having experiences that could be challenging with their mom, but I have watched them channel it into such compassion and love for others. They are some of my best advocates which inspires me each day. Incredible lemonade.

Dialogue.  We are talking about inclusion, the ADA, the rights of individuals with disabilities -- important topics.  I am surprised that the conversation of this incident seems to continue. As mentioned, I have had some similar experiences over the past 15 years with a guide dog with more positive outcomes. After the first experience as a new guide dog handler, I recognized that part of our journey is to advocate and educate. I have embraced this opportunity. Since June when this last incident occurred, I have explained to many about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). By the various places this story became news, I believe this dialogue occurred all over the country. I may have mentioned that when we were in the NYC airport shortly after this happened, a woman came up to me and recognized me! At first I was uncomfortable about this attention on my story and then I was reminded  this dialogue is about all of us. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is for each of us. In your lifetime, you or someone you know will be affected by a disability one way or the other and will be grateful for the ADA. It isn't something to be afraid of but rather something to embrace and make sure that we have inclusion in our society. People shared with me they tried to imagine what it would be like to be told to leave a store.  Empathy leads to action.  People have told me they are more committed to making sure they speak out when someone is in this position.    There was a customer in the store with me the day I was told to leave. They didn't say a word. I have reflected since that time - would I have walked over to their aid and stood up for them? I am reminded on the importance of making that commitment and saying Yes, I will.

Pay it forward. Now that I have re-entered and left the store, I think I can say I have moved forward. If someone I am with wants to walk into this store, I will walk in with them without the fear I experienced this week. It hasn't been easy. I would say I am a fairly confident person who felt shaken on that day and the days/weeks following. It has taken some time and help to work through those emotions of fear from discrimination. I have spent some time sorting through the best way that I can make a difference in the future. When we aren't listened to, it can take some time to remember that we do indeed have a voice. My voice matters. You voice matters.  If you need a voice count on Becky & Cricket to support, to advocate, and to write a letter as so many did for us.

It is interesting, with this experience I have reflected on a statement that one of my professors said 17 years ago in one of my first graduate courses on the Psychosocial Impacts of a Disability. She said - the biggest challenge isn't the disability but rather the societal implications of that disability. I remember sitting in my seat at Utah State University, (Go Aggies!) thinking really?  Oh so true.

My responsibility is to further explore what kind of lemonade I can make in each day of my life. I encountered employees, a corporation that were not willing to listen to my voice or interested in my ideas of making lemonade.  Sad.  They missed an opportunity in my opinion.  This experience has reminded me that the beautiful in the world far, far outweighs the ugly that is there. I believe we can educate, advocate, have a voice from a place of beauty. Cricket and I will continue to find the beautiful in each day and live our life from a place of love and feel a sense of relief that we completed one of the hardest, Cricket inside, that we have done when we walked back into that store.


Katrin said...

A good friend once sent me this quote and I love it "Courage is looking fear straight in the eye and saying 'Get out of my way, I have things to do!'" Wouldn't want to live my life any other way. I'm glad you had the courage and support to go back to the store.

Becky said...

Katrin - love it! Thanks for sharing.

Marisa said...

I wrote you about 9 months ago saying we were getting a puppy in training from Leader Dogs. Well Maggie is almost 10 months old and we have had many adventures with her. We have been welcome every where we go. We vacationed in South Dakota and no one ever question us. Then a few weeks ago my husband went to the eye doctor and brought Maggie. We take her to all our appointments. When he got there the receptionists were whispering to each other. Then they took a man that came after my husband back. When they came to the front they asked my husband if he needed the dog. He explained it was a puppy in training for the blind. They told him shecouldn't go back for the exam, it would be a distraction. My husband told them to cancel the appointment and he left. I tried to call the doctor to explain more but he never called back,. We won't be going to that doc anymore. Just seems so funny that he is an eye doctor. I went to another eye doctor and they had no problem with maggie being there. I can only imagine how you felt. All we can do is educate people.

Becky said...

Marisa - Gosh, yes how ironic of all the places that it was at an eye dr. Good for your husband for cancelling and taking his business elsewhere.

Karen said...

You show so much courage. Always proud of the way you take life on with power each day.
Dad and Mom

Fran said...

I'm so incredibly proud of you for returning to the store that caused you such discomfort. You conquered a piece of the fear that will no longer cause you anxiety. Because of your example, I'm going to focus on overcoming something that causes me fear. Thanks my friend!

Becky said...

Mom and Dad - thanks to your example :)!
Fran - can't wait to hear!! You go girl! Let's go to breakfast!

S.DAY said...

Holy cow! I'm so proud of you for being so brave to go into A.T! You're right- now it's a choice and not secondary to fear!
Seriously - so so proud of you. You inspire me.

Becky said...

Sday - thanks for your encouragement! Let's get together soon!

Mimi and CC Cabana said...

I would have been nervous to go back to that store, too, but I'm so glad you did it. Here's to moving forward, and as always, you do it full speed ahead. It is sad that Ann Taylor didn't use the situation properly. Hopefully, they will be an example for other companies to learn from--how NOT to handle their errors!

Becky said...

Mimi - Yes, cheers to moving forward!

Kim Holly said...

Sorry to hear about your Ann Taylor P.T.S.D. With time it will fade. In the meantime, a group of friends and I (in Nashville) heard about A.T's paltry response. We've taken our shopping elsewhere. Ann Taylor won't feel the loss, but it gives me great pleasure to keep walking when I pass A.T's doors. Keep crusin' and keep living your life from a place of love. All we really have in this world is ourselves, our family & friends, and love. Kim Holly

Becky said...

Kim - Thank you so much! Great message!

Lydia Criss Mays said...

"Cricket inside" - I got chills. Two words that reflect the strength of a woman, an inspiration to others, an invitation of empowerment, a weight lifted off shoulders, a metaphor for making lemonade. Those two words at that moment made a difference. You invited all of us to see beautiful with you. Thank you, for all the strength and kindness and love you offer to the world.