Do you ever fall into the stereotype trap and not even notice you're caught. That was me. Today. It was freezing cold out and when I attempted to take my wheelchair for a run, my fingers almost froze off. The biting cold of the metal was making a feast of my fingers. I knew I was going to have to change into my bulky winter gloves and was sorrowful at the realization.
Then, once in the car, seat warmer on, my side of the car 5 degrees higher than Joe's side, how does that work, and feeling warmth creep back into my fingers. I noticed a young man with an intellectual disability making his way through the parking lot towards the mall. I've seen him before, always on his own, always walking as if he had very important business, which he may well have.
But in this instance he was in a flimsy jacket, open to the elements, and a light tee-shirt underneath. I wondered to myself, with some hostility, "Who let him go out of the house dressed like that? He'll catch his death." Then went back to enjoying the warmth in the car.
My brain tapped at my temple trying to get me to notice something. It wasn't for about 15 minutes that I gave in and thought about the day. Something was bothering me. I thought of my hands, the gloves, the hill, the car, the warmth and then I thought about what I thought about the young man with an intellectual disability.
"Who let him go out of the house ..." I'm assuming that someone let's him out, that he doesn't do that himself. I'm also assuming that it's someone else's responsibility to dress in a particular way. I also noticed that I see other, non-disabled teens and young people out dress similarly and I tut tut and leave it alone. I don't see them as under the care of someone whose life is centered around done up jackets and warm mittens. That's their responsibility and the teen years aren't big on responsibility.
The bias that I have, even after all these years, can slip by almost without notice. I need to get better at getting disability, and I hope to do so before I see him again.