We were huddled up around the soup station. Sadie loves soup. Joe loves soup, I like soup and wanted to see what the veggie options were, Ruby reviles soup and was just with us to see what decisions were being made before she went over to the mac and cheese station. Joe was reading off the labels as to the kinds of soup available. We were together, we were a group. A man, on the other side of the station, looks to me, and says to me, “Can I help you get something.” I startled say, “No, thanks though.” He nodded and continued on getting soup for his family
Later, when we were leaving the cafeteria I got to the doors out only to find that the door opener wasn’t working. A large group had gotten between me and Joe and the kids so I just stopped to let the group pass and then rejoin mine. One of the group held the door open and told me to go along through. I thanked him but said no. The area around the elevator up is small, I didn’t want to get trapped in the larger group. I wanted to wait. He insisted. I said, “No, I’m here with my family, I will wait for them.” He insisted again. I said ‘no’ again. He insisted again. I explained again, “I’m waiting for my family, please go on through.” Then Joe, Ruby and Sadie arrive, by now most of his group has gone through the door. The kids see what’s happening and run to take the door from the man to hold for me. He has trouble letting them take the door but he does. “I really thought that you were alone,” he said, smiling.
The natural state for people with disabilities, or at least people with disabilities that look like me, is alone.
People have trouble thinking of us as being part of a loving social group.
People seem to actively want to think of us as sad, isolated, people, loved by none, included by no one.
In their minds, that’s what disabilities does.
The man by the soup station, even though I was clearly part of a group, couldn’t see that group, he saw a person alone, and person who needed help. I can’t even imagine how desperately dark and depressing the scene he must have been seeing. The context for me being there he created sprung from somewhere.
The man holding the door simply couldn’t believe me when I said I was with a ‘family’. He saw me as alone. He saw me as needing help. Another dark and depressing picture. Another projection of inner stereotype on outer reality. He heard what I said and must have thought that I was making up an invisible family in a desperate attempt to be seen as normal, and as loved, and as worthy. His surprise when they showed up was written on his face in the colours of prejudice.
This to me, is the most dangerous idea that has wormed it’s way into the minds of the non-disabled.
Disability creates isolation.
Disability is a separator.
Disability erases love and replaces it with need and dependency.
Objects of pity.
I sit in my chair unalone.
Already, and continuously, human.
Already, and continuously, loved.
I am unalone and unavailable for pity.
Both men shook their heads one at my refusal of his help, the other when the girls took the door from him. I was no use to them. No part of the story they wanted to tell. What good is disability if it doesn’t feed the need of the non-disabled to be inspired by their own kindness and their own goodness?
They shook their heads.
A denial of what they’d seen and heard.
Because to challenge prejudice is such hard work.
So why do it?