Image Description: A large man walking along a hallway touching the wall as he walks.
I didn’t know that’s what I was until my physiotherapist used the term when describing me on the phone to her supervisor. I can walk for very short distances but I have terrible balance and have fallen more often than I’d like to admit. The last time was a very public splat on the floor of a WheelTrans bus. That one hurt! The way I prevent falling is by touching the walls as I walk. This increases my stability by 1000% and it allows me to walk in my apartment from room to room and in my office from my desk to the toilet.
Even though I know I’ll not do long distances again, I like to keep what I have and as a result most mornings Joe and I leave the apartment about five minutes early and I take a walk down the hallway. It’s usually around 6 in the morning and I don’t have to worry about doing any fancy footwork around anyone else. I’m big, I’m cumbersome and I take up space in the hallway, passing me without me falling over would be difficult. Over time I have increased from being able to walk to the elevator and back to being able to walk from one end to the other. By the time I’m back at my chair both arms are up touching both walls, but I always feel it’s an accomplishment.
One day last week I was doing this and a woman down the other end of the hall poked her head out to get her newspaper and saw me in the hallway. She had never seen me out of my chair before and her face registered some shock but nothing was said. I couldn’t have anyway because the effort it takes to walk and not fall over leaves me breathless.
The next day I saw her, both coming back from work at the same time and she, who had always been pleasant, was quite rude to both Joe and I. We looked at each other with a ‘what’s wrong with her’ look but let it go. People have bad days. Next time I saw her she was rude again and I asked her what’s up, she screwed up her face and said, “You fucking faker!” And that was that. I tried to speak but she cut me off.
People with disabilities are a minority group about which non-members have virtually no understanding. The idea that people in chairs only use chairs and that people who walk never need adaptations is rampant. It’s fueled by the idea that we’re all using the system in some way, taking tax dollars that we don’t deserve, that we are fakers and cons. I tell you what, I don’t care that she’s going to be rude and going to view me differently now. I don’t care that she’s going to tell others I’m a faker. I don’t care.
I’m tired of caring what ignorant non-disabled people think.
It’s not my job to teach, it’s their job, as a living, thinking being to learn. To ask questions. To inform themselves. That’s their job. I’m not going to run after her or anyone else with information or with facts. I’ve enough to do. Wall walking takes up a lot of effort, keeping myself strong and well takes time, taking care of my heart and my soul takes my attention.
I’ve nothing left for her.
Because, and this is fucking awesome, her ignorance isn’t my responsibility.