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Originally appeared in the Good Reading Newsletter, February, 2008.

In Tampa, Florida, Brian Sterner reported in to the police station to deal with his earlier arrest on a traffic violation. He’s the guy lying on the floor in the video grab image at right.

The deputy, apparently not convinced he was actually a paralyzed man, put it to the test by walking around behind him and promptly dumping him out of the wheelchair.

Breaking two ribs in the process.

Go ahead. Watch it for yourself on YouTube.

This woman needs some disability awareness training, don’t you think?

She could easily have judged that he was the real deal from his extremely thin arms and legs, from his flexed fingers, and from his posture – defined by having no use of his muscles from his upper chest down. You can’t fake that stuff.

She should also have know that a wheelchair is an extension of the users body. Uninvited touching – much less putting it in the wrong relationship to gravity – is a personal violation.

This is as clear an example as there could be of what I’ve been saying in my talks, trainings, and writing – our society is not up to speed with the truth of Modern Disability.

The attitude is this: “Who would think that a man with quadriplegia could drive? People who are that paralyzed can’t be active and independent, can they?”

Yes they can. And they can even get arrested. But do they really need to be put to the test in quite this way?

The deputies, by the way, have been suspended.