I haven't decided.
Am I sitting in shame?
Or am I sitting in misery?
Or am I sitting in sheer hopelessness?
Help me decide.
Here is the conversation I had with a woman in my apartment building. She struck up the conversation with me while I was sitting outside waiting for my ride to work. Apparently she visits the building regularly because her elderly mother lives there. She told me that over the last year her mother has become less mobile and simply has not been able to get out as she can't walk down the elevator and through the lobby to the car. I asked if she'd considered a wheelchair. I explained how the wheelchair opened up my life and made work and recreation possible for me.
She said, 'Oh, no, she's much too proud to use a wheelchair."
I've heard this before. A friend who couldn't use a hearing aide because 'he was too proud.' Another fellow telling me that he had purchased a walker but couldn't use it because 'he was too proud.' to do so.
Now, I do understand that people need to learn to adapt to new situations in their life. I understand that these things can be symbols of aging. And I really understand that these things involve a 'coming out' ... even a small coming out ... as a having a disability. But really - they are too proud to be disabled? Too proud to need assistance?
Then this woman, said to me sitting in my throne of shame on wheels, 'And I kind of admire her for it.'
I said 'You admire your mother for being home bound when it's not necessary?'
She stumbled with the question a bit.
I suggested to her that maybe the fact that people admire her for clinging to non-disabled status is what keeps her clinging to non-disabled status. Maybe the idea that using a wheelchair involves a loss of pride rather than a gain of mobility is what keeps people shut in. I knew she was uncomfortable with what I was saying.
Then she said, 'Well, you must just see things differently.'
I said, 'Being out doors will do that to a person.'
It was a conversation that went no where and achieved nothing but ... it made me think about the fear that people have of disability and about being a member of the disability community. It also made me think about 'pride' in a different way. We need disability pride because people seem to assume we live with disability shame.
I don't live in shame.
I don't move in shame.
I don't spend any time at all in the land of shame.
Maybe that comes as a surprise to others who don't really understand that when someone says 'too proud' they really mean, 'not proud enough.'
Because people with pride stuff their ears with bright blue hearing aids, sit down in florescent green wheelchairs and have their hair dyed purple to match their walkers.
People with pride live out.
They used to say 'a closet is no place to live.'
Well, pride threw open the closet door ... and used properly it can ride a scooter down the hallway and into the street. And that my friends, is the daily disability pride march that each of us makes daily ... out of captivity and into the streets!