We travelled this week with the MV1 which is, for those who don't know it already, a purpose built vehicle for wheelchair users. I like it because it's a cool looking vehicle but I love it because I get to ride in comfort and bring along my power chair. Using this increases my mobility substantially. The thing about riding around in the MV1 is that it attracts a lot of attention. Really positive attention. Those driving by often can be seen turned around trying to see an insignia that tells them what kind of vehicle it is. It doesn't look like anything else on the road.
When parked, cars will pull up beside us and drivers will roll down their windows to ask questions about the vehicle. Many know someone with a disability, some are married to people with disabilities, and they ask a lot of questions. What surprises me is that they as JOE a lot of questions. Oft times they will be parked beside med, in the passenger seat, sitting in my wheelchair, and they will look across me to talk to Joe about the comfort for wheelchair users. In every way they use the right language about people with disabilities, that's good, but they seem to think that JOE would know best how it feels for people with disabilities to ride in it.
I will never be confused for invisible.
Joe never has to say, 'Ask Dave,' when the question is about the experience of those with disabilities in the vehicle because, without prompting, I answer even though I'm seldom asked. There are questions that are unique to Joe, about the driving and the handling of the MV1, but most questions are about the fit of a wheelchair, the comfort for the passenger and such.And I feel I am uniquely qualified to answer those questions.
Some are surprised at me jumping into a conversation that is flowing by me, from driver on my right, to Joe as driver on my left. But I don't care if it seems that I'm either rude or pushy. It's my experience they are asking about then it's my voice they will hear. One person listened to me answer a question asked of Joe about how the ramp is to ride down, then, when I finished, looked back at Joe and re-asked the question. It was as if I needed a non-disabled stamp of approval and authenticity to be believed.
Lately I've been wondering if there is a subtext, another layer of meaning, to the purposeful exclusion of my voice from a conversation about my experiences. Why am I almost never invited in to a discussion about a mobility devise, for that's what the MV1 is, between two people who have no need of the device themselves. What is being said, one to the other - what message is being sent - why do my receptors not pick it up. These are otherwise nice seeming people, they are asking the right questions, they seem to be concerned about their wife, their husband, their son, there friend with a disability.
Are they looking for care provider to care provider contact?
Are they looking to interact with someone in like role?
Are they needing something from the interaction that I'm missing?
I don't know, what do you think?