Yesterday an overheard remark to a support worker, "Just because I have Down Syndrome doesn't mean I have to look up to you," struck me as very, very funny funny. Now, nearly a day later it strikes me as more than funny, it's also quite wise. In fact, as I think about it, I can fully understand what's being said. I imagine that most people with disabilities can.
The moment I sat down in my wheelchair, my social world changed. People saw me differently and spoke to me differently. My boundaries changed, my shoulder, my head and my back became public property and people, strangers, would feel free to touch me - something they never did when I walked, or even, when I sat in a typical chair. I could echo that overheard remark by saying, "Just because I look up at you doesn't mean I look up to you."
It seems that there is a constant clash between my need, and right, to be treated as an equal, and others impulse to elevate themselves by lowering me and those like me into our rightful place as supplicants and 'lessers than'. When the end result of 'elevation' means you are standing in the same place, there is clearly a problem - but that fact is lost on those who revel in being 'above' another.
Over the course of a week I spend a lot of energy abjectly refusing to get on the 'diminishment elevator' and no matter how hard I have to work to keep the door open and block the 'down' button from being pushed, I manage as best as I can to stay on equal footing. But it's work, and it takes the kind of gumption and courage that was showing by the fellow with Down Syndrome who spoke up to his support person and put him in his place ...
... and where was his place?
On equal footing.