What does disability mean?
Sometimes nothing, nothing at all.
I think this may be the most surprising aspect of the disability experience. Sometimes it means something. Sometimes it doesn’t.
We went to the mall for lunch the other day. We like food courts. This court has tables designated for disabled patrons, they are a little taller so those using mobility devices and fit comfortably under them.
When sitting at the table, having lunch, my knees well tucked away under the table I don’t experience my disability at all.
Not. A. Bit.
I don’t think, during those moments of my personal disability, I’m just eating and chatting and enjoying the ‘je ne sais quoi’ of the place.
But sometimes disability means a lot.
Like when we go to the mall and those table are taken, even though the disability symbol is right on the top, by other people, non-disabled people, who seem oblivious to the obvious sign on the table. They see us, with me in the wheelchair looking suspiciously like the symbol on the table. Well, a little more rounded than that person perhaps. And they don’t move. Empty tables everywhere and they don’t move.
Then, I feel disabled.
I can eat at the other tables but my chair doesn’t fit comfortably under them so I have to sit all askew.
I feel disabled all through lunch.
Why don’t I just ask them to move?
BECAUSE I’M OUT FOR LUNCH NOT FOR A FIGHT, NOT FOR THE EDUCATION OF OTHERS, AND I AM SURE AS HELL NOT THERE TO ADVANCE THE CAUSE … I just want a crape!
Last week we were there and those tables were full and we began searching for a place that I could get to, which was hard because many were in the middle which meant wending around people and packages. One of the staff hired to clean up after everyone saw us looking. She stormed over to me, “You want a table?” she said without waiting for an answer, “follow me.”
We did as we were told and when she got to the table she said, “So, all of you, look here!” she said loudly while pointing to the wheelchair symbol. It means “Get your privileged asses out of these chairs so the people that need them can use them. And DON’T YOU LET ME SEE YOU SITTING HERE AGAIN!”
We had lunch.
She was one of the best doctors I’ve ever had.
I didn’t feel disabled any more.