Have you ever had a day when you forget that you have cerebral palsy? You simply wake up, do your normal routine and don’t even think about your disability at all. Then, when you least expect it, society reminds you of how people can view you. I find myself in that situation more often than I care to admit. I’m discovering that moments like these can be painful, but they also remind us that disability education and awareness are still very much needed.
I wake up and get ready to enjoy a leisurely weekend day at the mall. I’m all set to check out the deals and just have a nice day. As I’m strolling a long, I see an adorable child standing in the aisle having fun. All of the sudden, as I come closer, the parents grab the child forcefully by the arm and say, “Get out of the way or you will get run over!” I try to smile, or make light of the situation because I find it so ridiculous. I would never hit a child with my wheelchair. I can see them and will maneuver away from them like I would for anyone. And there is the reminder that I am viewed differently in society.
I go to a restaurant with my husband and we’re having a fun time. The waiter purposely does not give me a menu so we have to ask for one. We guess he thinks I can’t read. When the waiter returns to take our order, he forgets to realize that I’m a person who can order for myself. He asks “What does she want?” This attitude in restaurants is more common than what you might realize. It makes me remember, once again, how differently I’m viewed in society.
I am excited to go on a job interview for a teaching position. I wear my professional clothes and have my portfolio organized. I feel butterflies in my stomach, but I am ready to show them why I would be an excellent employee. I pull up to the school administration building and see an accessible door with an “open” button. After I go inside, I’m greeted by steps — in a public school building! The administrator decides it is okay to interview me, as he sat on the steps as people walked in and out of the building.
I wake up and plan a fun day with my children. We all get dressed and set to enjoy a day out. While we are at a store and ready to make a purchase, my daughter helps me get out my credit card. Then the stares start, and then we hear how she’s my helper, and more sympathetic stares. Or people ask if we are friends, because they can’t wrap their minds around the fact that someone in a wheelchair can have a child.
When I was pregnant, I had a miserable cold. I went to my local pharmacy and wanted to ask the pharmacist what medications would be safe for my unborn baby. I couldn’t figure out why he looked at me like I was crazy. Then I realized that he had a difficult time understanding that I was pregnant, and also had cerebral palsy.
Society has gotten much better in understanding people with disabilities, but still has a way to go. Raising awareness about disabilities would further educate society about disabilities, accessibility and inclusion.
Note: Cerebral Palsy News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cerebral Palsy News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cerebral palsy.