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Image Description: A side image of a head with showing the brain which is full of thoughts like, ‘I’m stuck’ ‘In the way’ and ‘back up slowly.’

Yesterday I wrote about trying to get into the clinic where I go to get my blood drawn. I described a needless barrier and how people watched while I tried to negotiate through that barrier. I also mentioned how the people in the waiting room and the people behind the reception desk did nothing other than watch as I struggled to get in. Some people, rightfully, commented that I should have, because the opportunity was ripe, spoken up and used my advocacy voice. They are completely right, I knew that from the moment I got in and settled that I could have done that differently and better.

I thought about it a bit and realized that the reason I didn’t wasn’t because I was intimidated by the fact that it was a clinic and that the power dynamics that come with being a ‘patient’ are always in play. It wasn’t that. I ran back through the incident in my mind and then I realized that my mind was the problem.

I’m not sure that non-disabled people understand the complexities of moving about in a power wheelchair. We all make it look easy because it becomes simply second nature. But every moment that I’m out and driving I’m aware of my speed, the condition of the road or sidewalk, upcoming barriers, the flow of people around me and the need to be careful with my wheels and with the frame of the chair not to bump into or run over anyone. That’s just normally. But when I get ‘stuck’ like I did in the clinic, because I moved in to make room for Joe to come in to help me, my mind is completely full of just moving the chair. I knew that if I did it wrong, I’d be jammed in and it would be really difficult to move.

Further, I felt the pressure of ‘being in the way’ which is something that is thrust upon disabled people all the time from a world where being ‘inconvenienced’ is cause for immediate upset and anger. The fellow behind me was clearly bothered by my movement and while that pissed me off, I couldn’t process it. I just wanted to get my chair out of where it was and past the barrier and up to the reception desk. That’s all I could do. I could do no more.

I don’t like the fact that my voice was silenced because, in my mind there was no room for voice, there was no room to consider advocacy, there was room for nothing but the business of being disabled and needing to negotiate space. I don’t like that those moments make me vulnerable because they make me silent. I know I need to learn how to always leave a tiny space in my mind for the voice that I need.

But it’s going to take a lot of practice.

Shit, more growth necessary.