Sometimes, and this worries me, I can go days without seeing another wheelchair user. On the road, as I am now, we travel from place to place stopping along the way to eat, to do the opposite of eat, to just take a break. Often we will do this at malls or restaurants, places where I'm fairly guaranteed access to a toilet. The disabled stalls will be full but inside everyone is walking, I'm aware that many have invisible disabilities and my kinship to them as a member of the disability community is likewise invisible, but that leaves me, pushing hard down hallways and waiting for the accessible stall, feeling quite alone. And then it come, the weight of being the only one. I am sure I am not the only person who has ever felt this.
The same is true of most hotels I stay in, most of the lectures I give, most of the people I meet from day to day. I am sitting, they are not. I am rolling, they are not. I am requesting space, they are not. There are times when I completely disidentify with the people around me. I know that I fall into the 'category' of being a person but it doesn't feel like that. It just feels lonely.
Yesterday I rolled into a pub and there was an older woman sitting in a transport wheelchair, she was slowly eating her dinner. By the setting next to her and the partially eaten plate of food I assume that the person she was with was up and doing something. My pathway through the crowd had me going just behind her chair. I said to her, "Sometimes it's just nice to see another person in a chair." Her hand reached out and touched my shoulder, she said, "I know."
And I felt immediately less alone.
The weight lifted.
And I could breathe again.