Monday, November 16, 2009

Disability Defined - Who Is Disabled?

I am sure there are thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people around the world who are in the same boat when it comes to disability. There are some who cannot be seen to be disabled, like hearing impaired or people with internal disabilities, like heart, kidney, liver or other organ malfunction. Mental disabilities and so many other kinds of disabilities, that it would be a mammoth task to name them all or to list them all here. Suffice to say that there are some disabilities that are not visibly obvious.

I made the terrible mistake of flying off the handle at some poor defenceless person who had dared to park in the allocated disabled bay. Because I could not see any evidence of a crutch, walking stick or wheelchair I had the temerity to assume that this person was able bodied. Even when this person explained how he was disabled I was loathe believing his explanation.

I have been wheelchair bound for a few years now but went the walking stick, walker and crutches route before I got here. We of the wheelchair, handicap walkers, crutches and walking stick brigade sometimes forget that there are other disabilities than ours and tolerance and understanding should be practised when confronted with one of the many insults and injustices that come our way in day to day life.

Since being confined to my chair I have tended on occasion to expect people to know how to handle me and my situation and get really annoyed when people don’t offer assistance. Sometimes they just don’t know what to do and need to be guided by us. Unless they have experience with disabilities and the disabled they won’t know how to handle us, or could be afraid of the unknown as it were.

Now, to take a leaf out of my own book I try to keep my anger in check and use the opportunity to teach someone new about disability. It is amazing how willing people are to assist where they can. If you’re in a queue and getting tired ask for a chair. Ask the person in front of you for help, I have found that they are only too willing to oblige.

Put your pride in your pocket and ask for help, don’t expect people to instinctively know that you are disabled. I pray daily for the calm and patience to deal with each situation as it happens. If you don’t need to, don’t jump the queue, wait your turn but do so in comfort. Don’t wait until you’re on the verge of collapse before you ask for help. Keep your cool.

1 comment:

  1. I completely understand your frustration. And yes I do think sometimes we need to put our pride away and be real. I just posted yesterday about this very thing on my blog. The two of us have visible disabilities, so people are going to react to that in whatever capacity. In my own life, I have discovered that if I do not like their reaction, I am likely to cut them off or be sarcastic. I am realizing that I am just as bad as they are when I do that. We need to learn to put our pride aside and create a teachable moment. Thanks for the blog! You are in my google reader as well. I appreciate your opinions!