He was standing on a street corner waiting for the light to change. It was very cold. It was snowing. Walking on foot, or rolling in a chair, was dangerous for everyone. I had regretted taking the power chair out the moment I slid down the driveway. But, in true Canadian fashion, I just motored, on because we own winter.
After finishing at the mall I headed back and arrived at the corner along with everyone else. I noticed him because I'd seen him before. He has an intellectual disability, he is also completely independent, I've never seen him with a support person, sadly I've never seen him with a friend either. But there he stood waiting for the light to change.
There was talk around him, people assuming that if he has one disability he has them all including deafness. So the talk was loud and unguarded, he either couldn't hear them or understand them, so it gifted them with the right of commentary without considering him.
The commentary was about the weather and his lack of an 'escort' or 'you know, someone to make sure he's safe,' or 'a babysitter.' I looked at his face, he just looked weary. He didn't say anything.
I didn't want to step in for him.
I just said what I would have said if it was happening to anyone else.
"He can hear you, you know?"
They were all shocked. One leaned down and whispered, "Yes but I don't think he understands."
"And that makes it Okay?"
They looked at me the windy whisperers like I'd lost my mind.
"You're disabled, you don't understand that we're just concerned for him."
The light changed and all headed across, all I could do was shout out, "Bullshit!"