“The only people afraid of the truth, are those
who can be destroyed by it!”
Generally speaking, I’m a relatively quiet, passive individual. Unless I observe injustice or ignorance per say, I go through life with a smile ready to take on each new day. I learned a valuable lesson these past few weeks however, whilst I was away with my family: If I put my head down and bite my tongue because I’m afraid of conflict, nothing is going to change. It is true. I am a person with disabilities who is living in an able-bodied world and frankly, that’s a harsh reality. What’s more, the older I become the more I realize that people can be incredibly selfish. I suppose I should back up a little in this tale and provide some context, so here it goes.
As I stated earlier, I recently went on a cruise with my family to celebrate a beautiful wedding. I made the decision to leave my wheelchair at home as we were told that my chair would be too wide to get through the cabins. I did not think much of it at the time because I knew from previous experience that space was a limited supply. My anxiety lessened when we were told that they would provide a wheelchair that would be less wide, making for easier movement about the cabin. But wait…. You then charged my family for the chair. Hmm… Strike one. You told a Person With Disability that it would be best they not bring their own chair, to then charge to for the replacement? I admit, I would not be as bothered by this if I thought it was a concern most of the individuals faced, but we all know that isn’t true. It was my reality for that week and when compared to the memories I was making, I brushed this off. My disabilities are not other’s concerns. That being said, I’ll be damned if that means I am going to excuse injustice! Strike two occurred hours later after leaving port. As required by law, upon leaving the ship conducts safety procedures to ensure that passengers know how to handle emergency situations. I mean, we’ve all seen the Titanic, right? Well, my roommate and I could not attend this emergency protocol because we couldn’t get into the elevators. We waited over fifteen minutes while able-bodied individuals ignored us, pushed ahead of us and blocked our access. These were individuals who were capable of climbing a few flights of steps. These individuals who prevented me from going were nothing more than selfish and excuse me, but lazy! You see, they had the option to use the steps, I did not, but let’s move on. What’s done was done.
Strike three, I admit was the straw that broke this Bermudian’s back. I was walking down the hall, because the cleaning carts were preventing the wheelchair from smoothly making it down the hall. I am not the fastest or most nimble walker. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But I was proud of myself. I was walking in flip-flops and not falling. Go me! This woman suddenly decided she was going to put her hands on me and shall we say, gently move me aside so that she could walk past me. I did not say anything because I was embarrassed. I knew I was holding her up. I observed her and after moving like there was a fire behind me, she walked maybe twenty yards to get to a cabin. You couldn’t wait what, a minute, to get to your cabin?
At that moment, I was glad I hadn’t apologized, because she certainly wasn’t worthy of it. But here is my problem, this is what grinds my bones. Why must I apologize? Yes, I walk a little slower than you. No, I am not agile, but in no way am I less than you! I live in your world. I make adaptions daily that you cannot begin to comprehend or even consider- because you have created a world that is unkind to me and my community! You should be ashamed of yourself! Instead of scoffing and pushing us aside, you should be asking yourself and our environments ‘what can I do to make this more inclusive’.
From a young woman with disabilities, who is tired of smiling to make you feel better about yourself and your selfish actions, I say: If you’re not going to try to understand or help our situations, instead of me smiling for your comfort, bite your tongue and walk away! I am living my life to the best of my abilities. I am making something of myself and chasing my dreams. You may watch in amazement, or you can get out of my way, because this time, me and my ambition will run over you!