Friday, August 1, 2014

Shut your lips.

It happened again.  I was rolling up the wheelchair ramp into the bus. I was pulling myself up and yes, struggling quite a bit, because that thing was steep. As the driver was strapping me in, he looked up and said: "When are you gonna get an electric wheelchair?". If I was rude I'd say, "None of your business".  I really wished he kept his comments to himself. And so I begun my routine explanation. How I prefer manual over electric because it's the most exercise I can get in a day, that I enjoy how light it is, the sense of control it gives and the feeling that I'm doing something with my own muscles and not just sitting around. Bottom line: I chose what works for me. It's not up for debate and needs no explanation. Over the last ten years I realized how often people would ask me inappropriate personal questions or make intimate comments on things that were none of their concern. It could be that being around a person with disability is new to them. It goes without saying for example that you don't say certain things of a different race, color of gender. Sometimes precisely because they're of a different race, color or gender, sometimes- because they are a stranger and there are things you should not talk in a certain way to a person you don't know. And you  shouldn't say the first thing that comes to your mind just because it popped into your head. It seems that those mechanisms that make you shut your mouth before you say something offensive have not been fully develoo when talking to people with disabilities. Just because you're curious about something doesn't mean you should get an answer. It's seems that everything within the space of my four wheels is fair game. My posture- why am I hunched  over so often? My spasticity, my strength, my exercise routine wit the advice that I should exercise more. My legs and can I move them?  The one I get the most is "What happened to you" sometimes phrased as "What's wrong with you". And everybody approaches me with their questions or advice as if these were things I never thought of or no one asked me before. And it happens not only with strangers but friends who are close to me as well. When my friend saw me struggling to get into his extremely high car dangling from a grab bar he said "You should go to a gym". I'm sorry I don't get into pick up trucks every day and haven't yet figured out yet where to grab and where to pull and how to find support for my feet to push away from. People often don't realize that a lot of times I fight my entire body to make those transfers. Comments about my mobility, fitness, strength that I'm out of breath and sometimes make a wrong move are really not appropriate. Try doing  something equally exhausting on your scale of ability and then we can talk.

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