I was rolling up the street, minding my own business, when someone decided to mind mine. A woman, sitting on the street with a sign asking for change, saw me go by and said, "It's cold out, you need to dress for the cold." I didn't think she was speaking to me, why would I, so I kept on going. "You, there, in the wheelchair, it's cold out, you don't want to get sick, you should wear a winter coat." Now others, waiting at the light with me, are looking at me and I'm being evaluated on my life skills and calculations are being made as to my suitability of dress in relationship to my suitability for independent community access. Trust me, there are committees everywhere
I may say it but many don't understand it: Disability isn't permission.
It's astonishing the degree to which people, often strangers but not always, feel they have the right and even the obligation to 'help out' by interjecting themselves into my life with their opinions and values. From what I've ordered at a food court, to how I get on an elevator, to what I should do to heal myself, I get advice. Advice and intrusion. I've spoken to parents of kids with disabilities and am told that they, too, sometimes get unwanted advice on parenting, nutrition, healing strategies, from people.
We're supposed to think of people who do this as 'kind hearted' and as 'only trying to help'. I suppose some of that is true, but I wonder why they seem to target those of us with disabilities or those with a family member with a disability. Maybe because they have learned it's inappropriate and unwelcome when done to others. I don't know.
But what I do know is that I wish, just some times, that people would just, and there's no nice way to put this, shut up. If you want to talk to me, say hello and engage me, in the same manner as you would with anything else.
As I write this I can still hear her voice, "A sweater isn't enough on a day like this!" And for those of you thinking, "Oh, my gosh, Dave went out with a sweater in the winter, maybe I better write him and tell him that it's not weather appropriate," hush. It's was a pullover winter coat/sweater worn over a thick black shirt, worn over my cloth light green shirt. I layer. That works for me. A winter coat doesn't keep me as warm as this combination. So, really, I'm good with dressing for the weather.
Please don't take away my community privileges.