Friday, August 22, 2008

Incident at the State Fair

There's been a dust-up over the presence of Rose Harn at the MADD booth at the Western Idaho State Fair. The NPT has a lengthy back and forth about it here.

I'm all for disabled folks being out and about just like everyone else. I happened to see her Tuesday evening at the fair. She was lying in a wheeled bed next to the MADD booth. Rose Harn's injuries and her current physical state constitute severe disability to the point of, it appeared, no ability. It was uncomfortable to see because I felt that if I more than glanced at her, I was gawking at her. Yet it was hard not to look. Fascinating in a morbid way. Due to the discomfort, my friend and I left the area.

Rose wasn't just out in public, enjoying the fair. She was at the MADD booth, where her presence made a statement. She wasn't volunteering in any normal sense of the word. She appeared to be unable to converse and definitely unable to hand out literature. I couldn't tell her mental capacity; perhaps she is sharp as a tack and fully able to decide whether she wanted to be there. If she did volunteer, it was to serve as a visible caution.

And if she didn't volunteer, then I think it was exploitive and inappropriate. The article says Rose was comatose for a year and a half after the accident, so that suggests she had severe mental as well as physical injuries. Either way, whether voluntary or not, Rose was on display. You couldn't miss her.

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