Blog: I Could Have Been Tasered

 

The shockingly and alarming trend of Taser deaths has been reported in the media, even more so in recent days. The whole world watched on media outlets and Youtube the November 14 tasering death of a Polish immigrant, Robert Dzieanski and alarms sounded about the use of tasers by police officers on defenseless suspects. Just today, it was reported that a 20-year old man in Frederick, Maryland a city close to Washington, DC, was tasered to death in a prison. Jamal was deaf in one ear and could hear in the other. The internets and news outlets are abuzz about the dangers of the Taser, a gun that does not consist lethal bullets, but “safer” electrical jolts that are zapped onto a person’s body sending 50,000 volts throughout. Dzienanski was tasered twice, making the total of volts that shot through his body to an alarming 100,000.

 

I am sitting here at the dining room table typing this blog with emotions of sadness, disbelief, anger and fear. On November 14, I could have easily been the next Dzienanski or 20-year old Jamal. I flew in to Ottawa from San Francisco by way of Philadelphia, PA on US Airways and was greeted by one of the Ottawa Airport escorts. Escorts through request are always not able to sign in ASL, so often my trips to the baggage area are uneventful. Until this one.

 

I filled out my Customs placard with information on where I lived, what I was doing in the States (business) and what goods I had purchased. I had several items in my bag but were too cheap to claim, or some a gift from a friend. So like in the past 10 years of my travels, I put down ‘None to Claim’ on my card and off I went to the customs agent with my passport and my escort. Bear in mind, I was feeling cranky because I had endured a 3 hour delay at the Philadelphia Airport with a terminal that sucked, and was stranded on the runway for 1 ½ hour next to a hyperactive woman with extra long hair that kept ending up in my face. So I was a bag of nerves and reallllllly wanted to go home and plop down on my childhood bed and read “The Alchemist”.

 

The customs agent took a look at my passport, her eyes on the monitor. She spoke to the escort, and I was given the index finger “No, no”. What the heck? The lady escort led me away, and I kept asking her to write a note. I entered a room with a counter with “Immigration” smeared horiztonally and then the escort and the immigration agent started talking.

“Talk to me” I gestured, “Write, please”.

The escort smiled and said either “shh” or “sure”. Either way I was confused and getting more riled.

 

The next thing I know, I entered another room, this time with two xrays placed in the middle of the room. There was a woman in a beige dress and she was talking to the security officer about something that they found in her bag. And it didn’t look good for her.

Impatient, I gestured to the escort once again, “Write!!!!:” while one security woman approached me and three police officers were nearby. The escort and the security ladies kept tossing around my passport and my placard. I wasn’t being kept in the loop, and my body language obviously showed that I was getting hot and bothered. I was also sick with mild bronchitis and a developing sinus cold. Home was all I thought about being at.

Finally, the escort writes: (incomprehensible).

She wrote in PENCIL. What does she think, I’m sighted? I told her I couldn’t see what the paper said and she smiled. Said nothing.

 

I was reaching a boiling point. I gestured, “Me. Go. House. Me. Bags. Keep.”

One of the police officers took a step towards me when I exclaimed that I was blind and I pointed to my cane. I didn’t care if I had the “Deaf Voice” and I said: I demand someone write me NOW.

The security lady finally wrote me a clear note: TAX EVASION.

 

What The …..?

 

I explained that some were gifts from a friend and the ring I had on was bought in San Francisco but it was so cheap I didn’t bother to claim it. I knew that the Canadian currency had surged over the US Dollar, and that governments on opposite sides of the borders were being more watchful on people who filed fake tax claims while traveling over the border. But come on. Lack of communication and intimidation should not be two of the approaches the border security should take, especially with a Deaf and Blind woman.

 

I looked around and was shocked to find that the security officer (s) were going through my suitcase, having it Xrayed. Last time I looked, it was my right to give permission first for them to search my suitcase. I had no drugs except the Advil for my sinus, and nothing illegal. I just could not believe I was being treated this way. I deserved better.

 

When the security officer lady was done with my suitcase, she returned it to me alongside with my laptop, my brown purse and told me in a simple gesture, “Begone.”:

 

The escort with the idiotic smile led me to the baggage area, following me like a shadow. I felt like slapping her because the anger I felt, exhaustion taking over and being sick made me want to avenge that incident in the inspection room.

 

I left, saw my Dad and was too upset to say hello or hug him. He knew something was wrong and gave me a Canadian treat: Tim Horton’s coffee and donuts. That always perked me up.

 

Then when I got home one hour later at 11:00PM, I read the tragic consequence of irate behaviour of someone who had language and communication differences in the same country, 3,000 miles away on the same longtitude. I could feel a huge lump in my throat. Coulda been me. My body language, my gestures and my slurred speech could have set off alarms, given the security personnel the impression that I was a raving lunatic that was getting too irritational for a simple bag check. They could have “tried to communicate” with me but my field vision being limited, they could have misinterpreted that as intentional ignorance…. And in a rush decision, decided to taserize me to calm me down.

I am officially scared shitless.

 

You know what’s the irony here? I was in the process of fine-tuning my letter to Jim Roots, President of the Canadian Association of the Deaf and the British Columbia Board of Transportation involving a case of a Deaf Blind man who was not allowed to fly without an intervenor. I had made some recommendations and one of them was to have 2 ASL interpreters per shift at every major airport.

 

I just finished that letter yesterday and I intend to walk in the CAD office on Wednesday and hand it to Jim Roots myself and DEMAND something be DONE before I or other Deaf / Deaf Blind person becomes a casualty at an airport due to preventable communication barriers.

 

There, my story is told. Now I am doing something. So should you.

 

Tactile love,

Christine “Coco” Roschaert

Ottawa, Canada

November 19, 2007

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Blogroll. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Blog: I Could Have Been Tasered

  1. Brian Berlinski says:

    Coco dear, what a nightmare at the airport! I love traveling but hate to spend lots of time stuck in airports or on airplanes. The airport staff were truly ignorant and trampled over your rights.. what else is new, huh? I support your suggestion that every major airport should have at least two terps each shift.

    When I flew from Madrid to Chicago, the staff asked for my boarding pass and my passport, and insisted they keep them until they assisted me in boarding the plane.. felt as if they didn’t know how to treat me except in a patronizing manner. Sigh!

    I’m glad you made it safely to your dad’s arms and to the welcoming smells of Tim Horton’s. I adore Tim Horton’s too, pretty good considering it is fast food.

    Sending you lotsa sunshine,

    Brian from Berkeley

  2. no name says:

    You need to write a letter to Customs Border and Protection in Washington D.C.

  3. Dianrez says:

    What a horrible ordeal! It sounds like insensitivity and rudeness, simply not communicating, that would otherwise have avoided many problems.

    The Polish guy and the Frederick, Md. guy were dispatched with the fastest way around communication–shocking them senseless, even to death. Easy. Fast. No interpreter needed.

    We need laws regarding tasers just as we have regarding guns–otherwise they are more open to abuse–such as discipline instead of subduing a violent person, and to misuse in place of communicating with someone who has extra needs or difficulty.

    You go, Christine! Super Coco to avenge these people! And for your next energy boost, stop by Rochester NY…we have Tim Horton’s too!

  4. LaRonda says:

    Christine,

    You are such an amazing role model! Your story is important to share and it will reach many eyes and ears in the blogosphere. You’re also funny and witty and poignant and profound. I am in awe of you!

    ~ LaRonda

  5. theexpatriate says:

    Coco, you inspire others to work for the D/B community and I am in constant awe of you. Your work will create an amazing ripple effect in the community.

    90 love,
    Patty oxox

  6. the other Christine says:

    Coco – how so scary. That is one reason why my Bruce does not like to travel alone. He prefers to have me with him so I can give him visual and environmental information that we all take for granted.

    This whole crap should have not happened to you or to anyone else, period.

    Too many idiots not keeping you in the loop, and too much going on at the same time, making you feel less of a person. Baloney!

    As much as we hate to do it, I’m glad you kept your cool, don’t give in. They’re not worth it. Your life is much more important than these “workers”.

    Thanks for sharing your story. It has inspired us to write to our airport, too. Hopefully it will inspire the others as well. The more we spread awareness, the more effective this will be.

  7. Mindi says:

    Hey Christine,

    Seriously – I am ashamed to be part of a National Capital that treats people the way you were recently treated. Think of all of the diplomats, politicians, Canadian Forces personnel, and their respective family and friends, who visit our fine city only to be approached in a rude and unprofessional manner.

    And think of all the people like yourself, who are the foundation of this local community that empowers Ottawa to function as wonderfully as it does, who are also being disrespected in a similar manner. It is absolutely uncalled for and I am proud to see that you are making a stand and taking action.

    I would love it if I could share this story with both of the Ontario Interpreter Association newsletters for SLINC and OASLI. Would you mind?

    Keep that passion sista!!
    Mindi

  8. Pingback: 411: Canadian Airlines To Allow SSP’s Ride for Free! « Tactile The World

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s