Today we went to a very large store that specialises in flat-pack furniture of Nordic design. It’s an amazing store full of very interesting things to look at.
Including me, apparently.
Being on crutches with an injured foot, I was anxious about how long I was going to last before I was exhausted, so my friends asked for a courtesy wheelchair. And thank God they did. I would have fallen over in tears before I got through the first section.
It came as a shock to realise, though, that when you’re in a wheelchair, people don’t look at you the same way as they do other people.
Sometimes it’s a look of sympathy. Sometimes it’s an expression that says, “You look surprisingly normal”.
And then there’s the occasional person who looks at you with fear and contempt, like you’re dangerous, or they might catch whatever it is that put you in the chair.
One woman gasped audibly, glared at me and pulled her child away from the aisle I was in, although he wasnt actually anywhere near me. What an appalling display of ignorance!
Seriously, folks. It’s my leg that doesn’t work properly, not my mind. And with limited mobility, I’m certainly no threat.
Then I had a sobering thought. Is this what people who are in wheelchairs permanently or long-term experience every day?
How absolutely awful.
It has never entered my mind to look at other people so differently. A disability or physical limitation does not define one’s character or personality. To me, a person is a person is a person.
Apparently, that is not the case for everyone.
Some people seem to think it’s acceptable to look at a person differently, or treat them differently, or pull their children away just because they look or move or get around differently than you most people.
I’m pretty sure that in the 21st century, we can be more decent and open-minded than that.