It startles me what so many other people see, when they see me. When they look into my eyes they don't see the reflection of journey to come, they see the reflection of something much different, much sadder, much lonelier. When they look at me they see a body and a chair. When they look at me they have their own narrative about what that means. They have assigned that image unshakable meaning.
"So sad that you are confined to a wheelchair, it must be so hard," said to me by someone who knew that I lived in Canada and that, at the moment, was in another country. That's not very confined. They had never left their state, not gone but 50 to 60 miles from where they grew up. But in their narrative, I'm confined. It suits them better for some strange reason. I try to explain the wheelchair as a vehicle for liberation. I meet dead eyes.
Watching a clip on Facebook of a young girl who is an astonishing gymnast. She has one leg and uses a prosthesis to enable her to participate. The narrative used to present her was that she hasn't let the prosthesis stop her from accomplishing her goal. I harrumphed at her story being stolen from her. The prosthesis exists to make her dreams possible. It does nothing to hold her back. Without it she'd not be doing what she does. Why is her journey and her story not see from her eyes.
What we see, as disabled people, when we see our lives, seems to stand in harsh contrast to what people see when they see our bodies, our disabilities, and enabling adaptations.
Part of the reason I write this blog is simply to remind myself that my journey is my journey and my life is my life. To remind myself that I don't live in the reflection of another's eyes, but I live in the world I see from mine.
We have barriers, as disabled people, both attitudinal and structural, but we also face barriers when trying to tell our own stories, to have them heard and understood. We have been mythologized into sad creatures who do well to gather dust. As we fight for a world that's accessible we also have to fight to be seen, really seen, and to be heard, really heard, because it matters that we are real, vital, people who never, ever, ever, need dusting.