We went into a coffee shop yesterday. I say that but Joe and I had tea and Sadie a hot chocolate so no coffee graced our table. When we went in we saw it was really full of people. I spotted one table free and headed for it. I couldn’t see, because of a post, that it was beside, but not part of, another table. When the other table came into view it was occupied by a young woman and a much older man, with a disability, who, like me, was using a scooter. He, also like me, was pulled up to the side of the table. Once our table was claimed Joe and Sadie went off in search of drinks, tea biscuits and the like.
After just a second a harsh glare from the other man with a disability came my way. I suddenly felt that I was intruding, but I was at another table, not connected to his table, and the place was full. He said something to the young woman with him and they simply left. I got the impression that he didn’t want to be at a table with another person with a disability sitting so closely by. It would have been easy to mistake that we were a group. I don’t think, and again, I’m guessing, that they’d have left if I had been non-disabled.
I run into this sometimes. The prejudice within the disabled community to others with disabilities. The desire to only be surrounded by non-disabled people, as if their value will rub off on you. I felt guilty but only for a second. Why should I care any more about a disabled bigot than a non disabled one? Now, I don’t know for certain what was going on. But the dirty look he gave me was unmistakable. They were in a coffee shop packed with people, it’s not a place where couples seek private time together. And, it seemed more like a helper / helpee relationship.
I get into this bubble of all of you here on this blog and all of those I’m connected with on other social media sites. I forget that pride and community are universal responses to what it is to be disabled and different.
I forget that people still live and grow up in a world that teaches:
I forget that I live in a world that expresses it’s reaction to disability with:
I forget that I live in a world where:
pride is a process
community is something that takes work
belonging is yet a dream
But I also live in a world where Sadie does drawings of different kinds of wheelchairs and explains to me how they work and how they would make my transit better.
And I live in a world where Joe has the courage to walk beside me and be a witness to and a recipient of stares and strange comments.
And I live in a world where I can work, and travel, and write and speak and do what I love to do at work and at home.
Further … I have all of you.
So, he may have thought he left me alone.
But he didn’t.
Not by a long shot.