What I saw
She was unhappy and upset. She struggled against the straps that held her in. Her protests were not heard, not noticed, by the two young people who where pushing the wheelchair down the street. I was sitting in the passenger seat of a car, unable to do or say anything to anyone. I wanted to protest.
Do people forget that they can be seen? That what they do, they do in full public view?
Do people know that they can be seen but figure that no one will care if what they do they do to someone who permanently resides with two labels slapped on their forehead - 'other' and 'lesser'?
What I saw
It was clear that the woman with Down Syndrome, riding in the wheelchair, did not have a physical disability. She made it clear with her protests. She called out that she didn't need the wheelchair. She called out that she wanted to walk. She called out that the tight belts hurt. She kept making like she wanted to stand up in the chair.
The two youngish people with her, I am assuming paid care providers of some kind, were walking side by side, talking and laughing. One of them pushed the wheelchair and the other walked along side the 'pusher.' They were obviously enjoying the day, the sun, the bustle on the street. The woman that they were pushing, the woman who was strapped into the chair, existed in a different world completely, as if she was there by chance in front of her.
What I think About What I Saw
When I am pushed, by Joe, or by a friend, I never feel as if I am alone with a human motor behind me. It's hard to chat and talk sometimes but we do anyways. It's clear to me, and to anyone watching, that we are out together, that we are part of a social unit.
I sometimes see people in wheelchairs who are pushed, alone in the world, by someone who is simply doing a job. Getting someone from here to there, with no connection - the chair could be a wheelbarrow full of straw, a lawn mower, a grocery cart.
A wheelchair can be an isolating experience.
What I'm Guessing About What I Saw
Some time in the past someone made a decision, for some reason, that it would be easier to have the young woman with Down Syndrome ride in a wheelchair pushed in front than walk along side. There may have been a reason other than convenience - and if there was - it was clear that she did not consent to this decision. It was also clear that the two young staff didn't care that she was in distress. It was clear by their casual chat and laughter with each other that they were USED to this.
What Was More Concerning
Those that noticed her distress seemed to look sympathetically to the staff and with annoyance at her.
Those Two Damn Labels
'Other' and 'Lesser' are the labels we should be worried about ... because they are the ones that make abuse acceptable.