The ramp up and in to the grocery store where we shop is a bit difficult to manage. It's rough where the end of the ramp meets the roadway. My solution is to back up, using the big tires to go over those bumps is much easier for me. It garners stares and unsolicited offers of help, but for all that, it gets the job done. We were there yesterday with Ruby and Sadie. We had a short shopping list and managed to get around, breaking up for a 'scavenger hunt' for a few minutes, and then, we were out.
The space between the cash desk and the windows is uncomfortably small. I can't wait at the end while groceries are packed because I feel that I'm in the way. So as I usually do, I head out to the lobby and wait there for the rest to join me. When they do, there is chatter, lots of chatter, I've been apart from the group for less than five minutes but there's lots to say.
I leave with them. I am surrounded by two kids and a husband. I turn the chair around and this unexpected turn catches the attention of a young woman outside the building. She looks at me with a bit of confusion. Joe and the kids are with me but behind me now, closely behind. I am saying, "make sure that I get down safely, it's a bit steep, and watch for cars I don't want to be smushed by someone racing by in the parking lot.
I don't notice that the young woman is approaching me with real fear in her eyes. I realize that she thinks I'm talking to her. That I just randomly ordered her to assist me. I look at her and said, "I'm not talking to you, I'm talking to the people here I am with." The relief on her face was immediately evident. She rushed back to where she had been standing.
Part of a group, but seen as solitary.
Part of a family, but seen as alone.
I am so astonishingly visible yet those who are with me are inconceivably invisible. Because disabled people live desperately lonely lives.
And some do.
But loneliness isn't the 'hallmark' of disability.
Non disabled people are often isolated too.
But this inability that so many people have in seeing me as a part of a social unit instead of apart from a social unit always worries me. It feeds a fear of disability and being disabled that goes to the heart of the prejudice against us.
But this time, because she looked so tense and so shocked to be ordered into assistance and since the transition of her face from 'oh my God' to 'oh thank God' was so quick to be comic. I thought it was funny.
glad you could see the humor.....
recently had phone call from wife of pt with dementia...I was in room when she was fussing at him - in the way of long married couples - and she was sure I had assumed she was being rude to me!
reassured her that i knew her tone as communication to partner not rudeness to me......
she was so worried....
so, the flip side of your interaction can happen too.......
It is amazing at how hard it is for abled people to see us disabled folk as part of a group. Yesterday I was out with my partner and younger brother. We went to see a film and then picked up lunch. We entered the burrito shop together, got in line together chatting all the time. When we got to the counter my partner and I swapped places so I was first, because I'm vegetarian and that way I get clean gloves that haven't touched meat. I ordered my food, moving down the counter until I got to the till. One of the workers started to ring up my order and I told her the next two people were with me. She looked so shocked and actually queried it! My brother's burrito went into the same bag as mine and once again she started to ring it up. Again I said that there were three of us, and again she looked shocked. What is it about wheelchairs that make us look like we are alone?
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