DiversityNZ logo

Posted by Philip on 21 September 2010, 9:11 pm in , ,

I hate hypocritical overseas speakers!

Yesterday I was at a conference on disability and the keynote speaker was a ubiquitous Canadian parent talking about how important it is to hold a positive vision for the lives of significantly disabled children. He was saying all the right things – accept what is, stay in the present, love the child you have, not the child you wish you had.

At the end of his talk he said he thought we needed a new term for “disability”. He said he didn’t know what it should be, but that it should encompass the idea of a valid experience that is not commonly recognised. Hey, I thought that’s great, maybe this guy is worth chatting to.

How wrong I was.

Twenty minutes later I came back from the bathroom and he was standing at the back of the conference room, listening to the next speaker. I went up to him and said in hushed tones, “I have that new term for you – it’s 'unique function’.”

Now, I know my speech as not always the clearest, especially when I try  to whisper, and the Kiwi accent doesn’t help things for foreigners. So this guy didn’t understand me. But his response made me lose all respect for him and affirms my opinion that the likes of him are just on an ego-driven conference junket on the backs of disabled people.

He could have said, “Sorry I couldn’t understand, lets talk later.” But instead he bent down, gently put his hand on my shoulder, broke into a patronising smile and nodded earnestly. “Thank you…” he gushed, his eyes seeking out my name tag, “…Philip.”

So that’s how you walk the talk – patronise disabled people, but use their name. Great. The world’s going to change a lot with that noble action.

In retrospect I’m glad he didn’t hear me, because I bet he would have ripped off my thinking about new language and wouldn’t have acknowledged its source. Or if he did, it would have just been what “Philip” inspired in him.

I just had to get that off my chest.