Saturday, July 24, 2010
Temporarily Disabled - A Good Lesson
Physical obstacles are one thing, though; they have physical solutions. Social obstacles are quite another. Voiced social obstacles, yet another.
I never really understood (and probably still don't, entirely) what people with disabilities experience daily, until I had arthritis and hip replacement surgery. I walked with a cane for several months.
Like anyone else, I became frustrated when a seemingly abled person used the bathroom facilities for people with disabilities - that bar on the wall is there for a reason! The attached bar is the solution to the physical obstacle. Lack of understanding, or caring, is the social obstacle.
Many, many people would practically fall over themselves to help me, hold the door for me, stop and wait while I crossed the street. I felt grateful to them all and said so.
During the months of using a cane, I was sworn at, frowned at, told to just die and stop annoying the able-bodied. I was told to get out of the way, to hurry up, to stay home. I had doors let go in my face, and on one occasion ,I was almost knocked down by a car when the driver thought I was too slow crossing.
I have to say that the anger I aroused in some people completely floored me - maybe I shouldn't have been surprised but I was. I was also amazed at how easily people give themselves permission to say the most awful things to a complete stranger (well, to anyone really).
I think that I have been mostly helpful and supportive of people with disabilities over the years, but have had my eyes opened by the experience of having a disability.
I don't know what the answer is, but education in empathy and compassion has to be a big part, and we have to try to undo that terrible sense of entitlement that some people have that others, especially those with disabilities, should simply cease to exist rather than be an inconveninece.