Saturday, 11 October 2014

"That thing is a wheelchair."

Have you ever been referred to as "that" or as a "thing"? I bet you haven't. It really shouldn't be a common occurrence for anyone, but unfortunately it's something I am very familiar with.
I was in a store just the other day, when a child walked past me and said, "What's that thing?" Now, I don't mind when children ask me questions because I would rather have them know than not. What really bothers me is the way the parents respond. On this particular instance, the mother said, "That thing is a wheelchair." I am quite accustomed to this sort of response, but for some reason this time it bothered me. Why should I be accustomed to being referred to as a "thing"? What does that teach the child? It teaches them to see the wheelchair first, then the body, if they can even get past the wheelchair.
This is the way I'm treated constantly by people, in fact, it has been happening my whole life. I constantly feel like no one is seeing the real me, because the chair speaks louder than words. I suppose I notice it more now because I'm an adult and I desire to be treated as one. Instead, I get people treating me like I don't have a mind of my own. To be honest, whenever I meet someone for the first time, I always think, "Is this person going to act normally around me, or are they going to treat me like I'm mentally handicapped." It's like I can feel when someone thinks I'm mentally handicapped, and then unfortunately, I feel embarrassed and I start to act differently. I'm being very frank because I think it's sad. It's sad to be treated differently because you look different. In my opinion, beauty is from the inside out. But that's not the way the world thinks. Simply put, if you have normal conversations with other people, then why can't you have one with me? You wouldn't walk up to a friend, get right in their personal space, and start talking to them like they're deaf. So why do it to me. You wouldn't choose to ask questions about you friend, to your friend's mother, if your friend was standing right in front of you. So why do it to me? You wouldn't refer to your friend as a "thing". Why do that to me? I wish more people would think about this. Why am I any different than you because I'm in a wheelchair?
So parents, I just want to give a quick suggestion. You just have to change your response slightly. Say, "There's a woman in a wheelchair." Acknowledge the human being first. See, not that hard! I can't change the way the world sees me, but you can, and it starts with you! As Willy Wonka says, "Anything you want to, do it. Want to change the world, there's nothing to it."


  1. You are a beautiful young lady, Grace., and one of the most delightful people I know.

  2. You're right, Grace. People do this sort of thing all the time. We notice if people are tall, short, fat, thin, and so on. And that's how we describe them. But there's a big difference, as you point out, between saying 'that's a woman in a wheelchair' and 'that thing is a wheelchair.' It's up to parents to teach this to their children. A child's eyes are naturally drawn to anything that is different in their world, so the parental response is how they'll define what they see.

    Thanks for posting this. I hope that people will read it and remember it, the next time they see any person using any sort of mobility device, whether it's a walker or braces or a wheelchair.

    Wishing you a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!