This is Ben.
We met at a bus stop in Napier.
Ben has cerebral palsy. He says he has this disability because his mom didn’t go to the hospital soon enough. He didn’t know his mom because she gave him up when he was born. He says he didn’t want to be born with cerebral palsy, but “that’s how it is.”
One time a bus driver would not let him on the bus because there was s stroller in the handicapped section, so Ben had to wait two hours for the next bus to come along.
He lives in an assisted living residence with seniors. He says he likes old people because they talk to him like a normal person and not like a disabled person.
Ben is almost 40 and wants to get married.
He has a job doing something (that I couldn’t understand because of how his speech is affected) that doesn’t make enough money for him to visit America again, although he would really like to. He went to San Diego once on a trip with other people who have disabilities and loved it.
For me, this encounter was both affirming and disheartening. I was affirmed that my students can learn the functional skills we teach them, like using public transportation and how to hold a job, that they will carry with them throughout their lives. On the other hand, it was disheartening because no matter how many skills we teach them, they will still have desires and aspirations that will never be met. The want to communicate. The want to get married. The want to be treated normally.
I can be the best teacher in the world but I can’t control how that world treats them. That, I think, is the hardest part of this job.