I recently read A Disability Paranoia Journal on the BBC’s ouch! website (“chippy” = having a chip on one’s shoulder), in which the author says, “How often do I think about my disability? Every minute of the day, that’s how often.” She describes going through her day assuming people are constantly watching and judging her. I felt superior – I am past that, I thought.
Then I got an email from the director of an organization I belong to, in which he said that our usual meeting room was not available and we would be meeting in a room two stories up – “For those of you not familiar with the building, just go to the stairs and go up two flights…”
Now, this is a group of people I meet with every week. They have not failed to notice that I use a wheelchair, and am unable to climb stairs. (The building has no elevator.) A variety of thoughts immediately ran through my head – he couldn’t find a ground floor room, he’ll call in a minute to apologize that I won’t be able to attend, he thinks I’m willing to be carried…
I meditated on the sick feeling in my stomach for 15 or 20 minutes, then emailed him to ask if there was no possibility of a ground floor room. Five minutes later comes the response, so sorry, we’ll meet on the ground floor. Thirty seconds later the email to the whole group, correction, we’ll meet on the ground floor.
Here I am, thinking that everybody must be thinking about me and my wheelchair, when in fact, practically nobody is.
Another good reason to get out and do whatever the hell you want to in the world; it’s not like anybody’s watching.
I understand what you’re saying. And it’s a good thing when people think of you just as you, and not a handicapped person… On the other end of the spectrum, don’t you hate being treated special because your legs don’t work? I frequent a forum where people are ruthlessly rude to each other, especially new members. It’s all meant to be fun, and I lurk there a lot just for laughs. Once they found my web page and discovered I was in a wheelchair, the very few times I have posted, they’ve been uncharacteristically nice and polite. One of them even mentioned something to the effect that they were going to go easy on me because of my disability. I’m sure they mean well, but it makes me uncomfortable… There’s nothing wrong with my mind.
It’s really hard to find the right balance – and the balance is different depending on whether it’s family, friends, co-workers, strangers … I guess in this case I felt like this person should have had his goshdarn consciousness raised by now!