Cultural Competence

At work today, I attend a program entitled, “Providing Culturally Competent Services to Individuals, Especially Those with Disabilities.”  The audience consists of counselors, nurses and social workers like me. We learn how to become more sensitive to and effective with clients of different cultures, ethnic groups or disabilities.

Walking home, I mull over what I’ve learned.  I reach the first crossing, where cars turn from a busy street onto my side street.  As I step into the crosswalk, a voice from the car turning in front of me screams a phrase including “mother” as the first half of the whole word, then two words that aren’t “dim wit” but which rhyme and mean the same thing.

My first thought is that this man obviously didn’t attend the same program I did.  If he had, he’d be more sensitive to the blind culture.  He’d understand that blind people can’t see cars.  He’d have learned that a person attached by a harness to a guide dog has the right of way.  My second thought is that I’m glad he didn’t run me down.

I try to understand this man’s culture. Driving is stressful.  Road rage rages.  Offensive driving is the rule. Perhaps he had to drop out of school to support his drunken parents who now get on his case because he doesn’t make enough money.  Maybe he’s just having a bad day.

The man must not be a member of the blind culture.  He may not even know anyone who is.  He probably doesn’t counsel blind clients.  Perhaps he thinks disabled people ought to stay home and out of sight.  Maybe he hates dogs.

I cross the street and walk on.  I don’t take this man’s harsh words personally.  I neither call him a dirty name nor judge him harshly.  I am a professional.  I am above that pettiness.  I just  hope his girlfriend in the passenger seat says, “That man was blind, you moron.  Drop me at the next corner and never call me again.” That way, he might learn a lesson in cultural competence.

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About secondsense

Second Sense works in partnership with our clients, providing support and training to help them move beyond vision loss to an active, productive life full of possibilities.
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5 Responses to Cultural Competence

  1. bethfinke says:

    You know, when people run into me because they’re looking at their phones instead of where they’re walking(don’t ask me how I know this is why it is they’ve run into me, I can just tell!) they tend to start out angry, then notice the Seeing Eye dog at my feet and apologize profusely. I am glad they apologize, but I am always left thinking, you know, they should apologize to *anyone* they run into, not just someone who can’t see them. And, really, they shouldn’t be looking at their phones while they are walking down the street. So to me, this is not a disability issue, just an issue of living unselfishly.

    _____

  2. Judi Farrell-Booth says:

    It’s clear to me, Jeff, that you’re above that pettiness. And, BTW, I loved your prior reference to Randy as “Brutus”. Laughed out-loud at that one!

  3. Pam Berman says:

    Jeff, you crack me up!!! I’m so glad to be part of your culture…lol

  4. Kim says:

    Great post! Thank you. And yes, please Universe, I beg of you: give strength and integrity to the girlfriends/boyfriends so the morons may be left in the dust.

  5. smilejones says:

    Thank you for sharing. It’s good to know I’m not alone with these situations. Last week a crazy pedestrian passed me and my guide dog on the sidewalk and he was screaming profanities all the way down the block. I stepped aside and waited for him to pass us before continuing. Even though things can scare me like that on the way to work, it is so much better than staying home and never leaving the house. Life is so much more colorful when I face my fears. It’s hard though.

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