About two years ago we were honored to publish a great post by Eva Sweeney on why she supports people with physical disabilities speaking up and taking action on their own behalf. Eva writes regular accounts of her daily life with Cerebral Palsy on her blog “The Deal with Disability,” and she has just made a new documentary called “Respect: The Joy of Aides”, which explores the relationship between people with disabilities and their aides. Spoiler alert: it looks phenomenal and important. Eva writes of her latest project:
“Being in the disabled community myself, and seeing how some people treat and interact with their aides, made me want to show the more positive side of having aides and being an aide. I have rather a unique perspective on aides and their employers. I think some people with disabilities treat their aides as just their hands or just like servants. They don’t communicate openly and just order aides around. When those “relationships” (if you can call it that) go sour, the family and friends in the disabled person’s life blame their aide and don’t look at both sides of the relationship. So I hope Respect: The Joy of Aides shows a more balanced relationship and that the aide and the person with disabilities are both responsible for whether the partnership works.”
There are many layers that make a documentary like this significant. Of course, the trailer gets at issues of access and independence among people with disabilities, which are of themselves a feminist issue. But the fact that women have historically been pressured to take on the caregiver role, and been under-valued in that position, adds some nuance to the discussion as well. One of the most compelling parts of the trailer for me is when a woman who is ostensibly one of the caregivers featured in the film discusses feeling torn between genuinely enjoying her job as an aide to Eva, and recognizing that it would be better for her personally to move on to other career opportunities. That’s tough stuff, and gender issues factor in heavily.