Another Day, Another Insult: Hate Against Disabled Parents and People
My home schooled son was in a class (the term home schooling really isn't accurate for most kids educated out of school) and after that had been invited to a birthday party and a sleep-over. I had a free afternoon and had no deadlines for my job so I decided to go swimming and then pick up some food items as I was entertaining my daughter and new grandson. I was happy and upbeat. There's nothing like a marvellous new life to give people the 'wow' factor. I had a spring in my step as I walked down the street, my mountain bike style disability aid loaded with cakes and other goodies to spoil my daughter and her partner.
As I made my way down the very long terraced street, lost in thoughts of my tiny grandson, a woman's voice rang out
"I want to say something to you!", she said, in an angry tone.
I looked round and saw a woman in a shift dress and high heels, in her 40's.
"What?" I asked, wondering what I had done to cause her obvious anger.
"You're undignified!" she almost shouted, "and you need someone to give you dignity!"
My immediate thought was that my T shirt was riding up and I had accidently shown some flesh. Partial nudity was the only way I thought I could possibly have been undignified. When I checked, however, my clothes were covering me perfectly. I was wearing a winter jumper and some leggings, nothing skimpy or see-through. I realized she was referring to my disability, that I needed an 'abled' person to do things for me and make me 'dignified'. My jaw just dropped open in shock. I was so disgusted that I simply turned and walked away from her.
I had offended her simply by being there. She had seen a disabled person walking down the street on her own, carrying her own groceries. Apparently that made her angry. I had the impression that she felt that I - as a disabled person - should have an 'abled' person pushing me about in a wheelchair and doing everything for me, or worse, that I shouldn't show my 'undignified' disability in public and should stay indoors so as not to offend her sense of what is normal.
I thought of many things I could bite back with, like 'I'm perfectly dignified thanks, I've been married and I've got kids, a grandson and I run my own business so maybe you should consider your own prejudices before you speak to another disabled person again. We're not all waiting around for an 'abled' person to rescue us!" - unfortunately I'd been too appalled to open my mouth.
I went back to the supermarket I had just been to and ordered three cups of tea just to calm down and sat in the cafe trying not to cry. I was suddenly not excited about the impending visit of my relatives anymore. She had ruined my day.
About two months earlier I had been to a physiotherapy appointment and had a lift with my friend. In the car park a woman approached me to ask where I got my mountain wheels from - a common question as everyone is interested in them. I answered her query politely and walked to the car. She then turned to my friend and said
"It gives her some independence, doesn't it? Bless her!"
My frien was fuming and I even more so to be patronized and babied by a total stranger. At that moment I wanted to jump out of the car and shout
"I live independently and have kids and a grandson!!"
I was sitting near the steering wheel and for a flash of a second had a rageful thought: I wanted to run over her. It wasn't specifically her comment that gave me that feeling, but the effect of numerous repeated events like that. Events that since I became divorced were happening on average once every two months. I was tired of the way some 'abled' people view me, that I am constantly judged for the way I look. That I'm a mother and grandmother and bread winner just going about my life like any other mother, but I'm viewed as mentally impaired, in need of a kind 'abled' person to take pity on me. That was the reason I temporarily had a 'boiling bunny' moment. Of course I didn't act on it. Unlike the people who think I am less because I am disabled, I know what is fair and the difference between right and wrong.
I'm not suggesting everyone is like that and if you are reading this you probably think disabled people are equal but to the few who do say things like that, my advice to you would be: Think before you speak. Appearances can be deceptive. You don't know if the disabled person you are insulting is a business owner, scientist, doctor, teacher or single mother raising a tribe of children on her own. Just because you think someone looks damaged or helpless doesn't mean they are