I want to share two events that I experienced recently.
On my home from Eastern Market today, I wheeled over a set of uneven tiles and fell out of my wheelchair. While I was trying to get back on my wheelchair, there were at least seven or eight people watching from a few different directions. This one young couple, in their late twenties or early thirties, had my attention. They looked at me intensely, but did not ask me if I needed help. They kept staring atme from 20 feet away until I got back onto my wheelchair.
I recently read in a book that the more witnesses there are when an incident occurs in public, the less likely it is that people will act and try to react to the situation they are seeing. This is because they think someone else is going to do something about it. This was definitely the case for me today. They all saw me fall out of my wheelchair, but nobody came over to show assistance. I wish the couple and all those people staring would've asked if I needed assistance getting back onto my wheelchair. Should I have not needed their assistance, then they should've gone on their way instead of staring at me intensely and making me feel embarrassed and ashamed.
The second event occurred earlier last week. I was feeling really down because of a hostile dialogue I had with one of my colleagues at one of my part-time jobs. It was about leaving the only wheelchair accessible stall open. I went into the restroom and saw that all the other SEVEN stalls were empty, except for the large wheelchair accessible stall. Here is my best recollection of the conversation below:
Me (waiting urgently to use the bathroom): "How long are you going to be?"
J (a RANDOM letter for my colleague for privacy sake): ”10 minutes.”
Me: “Can you use the other toilets next time because this is the only stall I fit into?”
J: "Well, if you had told me your schedule and I would’ve known you were going to be here today, I would’ve used the other ones."
J: "I’m wiping...."
Me: *utterly speechless* ...
End of Dialogue.
I wheeled out of the bathroom still needing to use the restroom.
Why do I share these experiences? Is it because I want your sympathy and pity? NO! I want you to understand some of the DAILY struggles some wheelchair users experience. I want you to react to these situations in a respectful and kind manner if similar situations ever happen in your life. For the second situation, a simple "I'm sorry. I will be more mindful next time." would've been just fine. I don't believe in being a victim, but I do believe in sharing my experiences and making sure others don't have to suffer through the pain, the shame, and the hurt. I believe in using my voice to better my life and better the lives of those who cannot use their voice to better theirs. I believe everyone deserves respect.