Sunday, July 1, 2012

Progress, Change and Insult: Battles in and out of the Garden!

“Progress, Change and Insult: Battles in and out of the Garden!"

Progress is impossible without change and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. ~ George Bernard Shaw

Great quotes are often worthy of repeating. After this week, I realized that constructive criticism is often difficult for even the most intelligent people to accept. As the offended one, undeserving belittling comments were thrown my way from those that I once considered to be professionals. Instead of apologies and gratitude, I was blasted as adversarial and ridiculous. A reporter in response to my statement that the use of the “h” word was regarded by people with disabilities to be as offensive and as derogatory as other inappropriate terminology used in the past describing the ethnicity of people, responded to me by saying, “That's a ridiculous statement. We will have to agree to disagree, ma'am.”

I was further humiliated by the Editor’s defensive statement where he said, “You have succeeded in identifying yourself as someone to whom neither of us would go for a rational, reasonable representation of individuals with which you share a common interest, whether it is the issue of people-first language or the topic of gardening.” (Some quotes are not worthy of sharing, but sometimes necessary so others can be enlightened to what an advocate has to put up with.)

For the ever growing friends (now over 250) who follow Access to the Garden on Facebook and the followers of my blog, I certainly hope that you feel differently about me, and that you share the same outrage as I do over these demeaning comments. To not waste energy on such negativity is almost impossible. Sadly, this was not the first time that these two were made aware of their use of offensive language either. With this particular publication, the word “handicapped” had been used close to 300 times during the last couple of years. In the last year alone, I and others had reportedly complained of the same issue on several different instances.

I cynically had a good laugh when I realized later that the Editor had worked previously for another publication that I was once very familiar with and had quit reading for this very reason. The only difference was that my allies within that publication had apologized repeatedly saying, “We’re sorry Brenda, it was the Editor.”

In a last ditch effort, I copied the exact quote from the AP Stylebook and shared it with the reporter. (This resource is used by all writing professionals.) Disabled / handicapped - avoid describing anyone as disabled or handicapped in AP style. Blind and deaf should only be used for a total loss of sight or hearing.” Sadly, the response I received was as humiliating as the prior. “You are still ridiculous. Do not contact me again.” What truly handicaps people with disabilities, are unchanging attitudes like these. (This is an appropriate use of the “h” word.)

I realized after this communication that I was obviously wasting my time. I made my point, and I gladly shared my disgust with a few close friends, and, hopefully, with a few others who can possibly make a positive change. I may never be perceived as an ally there, but at least I said what needed to be said, with no regrets.

Sometimes, defensive behavior such as this can catch you completely off guard. Instead of, “We apologize for any offense, we certainly meant none”, you’re perceived as the adversary. In other circumstances, I have been ignored repeatedly when I’ve tried to offer my assistance as a professional on ways to improve access for people with disabilities. My suggestions can prevent injury, possible lawsuits, and provide an opportunity for more inclusion for people with disabilities. There is no licensure for doing what I do, but if there were I would have it. I’m certified as an ADA Coordinator from my participation and completion of many hours of training on the ADA. I have also completed numerous physical evaluations for compliance with the ADA, and many other accessibility requirements. Before quoting any regulation, I find the regulation and/or run it by a specialist if necessary to further help insure that I am correct.

For those who welcome me and to those who do say ‘thank you’, you make it all worth it. Seriously, this is why I put up with all of the nonsense. I will be the first to say that I look forward to the day when I am no longer needed, and to when even the best license professionals can see and review things in the same capacity as I do.

I recently had the pleasure of being invited to a special meeting held by our county parks commission regarding the future of our park system. This is one of the same entities that I had once had the opportunity to volunteer with years ago, one that valued the input of resident’s with disabilities. I am thrilled that they still do, and look forward to an additional 5000 acres of parkland to utilize. Hopefully, to include a few accessible kayak launches, accessible gardens, and other features to enhance inclusion.

I also had the privilege of attending the open house of a new educational Urban Farm, constructed and maintained by our state’s medical university, and by many members of the community. This was an exemplary effort that will be followed by many other institutions nationally. Efforts were made for inclusion which will, hopefully, be further enhanced by a few minor suggestions. An integrated effort needs to be made with the city and the state to allow individuals with disabilities to arrive safely from “site arrival points”, accessible parking, and bus stops. Nearby sidewalks will need to be addressed as well. The farm is awesome.

In my organic vegetable garden this week, I also felt as if I lost a few battles. “Lose a battle, win a war!” ~ Sun-Tzu's treatise on the 'Art of War' written in 6th Century B.C. I ripped out my squash and some of my cucumbers because of the damage caused by the squash vine borers, and the pickleworms. I also discovered cabbageworms eating my radishes, and tobacco hornworms munching away on my tomatoes. I showed no mercy to any of these pests. I learned that, unfortunately, the very beautiful hummingbird moth is actually the moth the hornworms transform into. This will not be occurring in my yard anyway!

Feeling like a failure within my own garden can be very discouraging. The same feeling you may have if your perspective on access isn’t seemingly appreciated within your own town. After conversing with other gardeners this week, it is quite evident that we all face similar pests on a daily basis. Some pests we face with mercy and others we do not.

As a gardener in the South, I have also had to deal with excessive amounts of hot air, both in and out of the garden. As an advocate, I do not sugar coat anything, especially when I’ve dealt with the issue before. Professionals should know the correct approach to writing. In 2012, I should not have to tell any reporter what is considered offensive language, and what is not. One reporter went back and changed the inappropriate language last year after she learned that I, and many others, was upset. For her and many others I am utmost grateful.

Sometimes, we all need to speak up when we feel that an injustice has occurred. The worst feeling is when you know that you haven’t said what should be said, for whatever reason you think you may have, and then later something tragic occurs and you live with regrets for not listening to that little voice inside. Trust me.

Often, we may resort to chemical pesticides when we can’t deal with excessive plant loss. Understandably, the negativity created by advocacy isn’t for everyone. There are independent living agencies, and other social service organizations within every state that are there to help.


  1. stay strong and ignore the critics. love you!

    1. I have over 250 followers that feel differently, the greatest husband and adult son in this world. How can I not remain strong? "Can't fix stupid" as the old saying goes, but you sure as heck can be heard!