Tag Archives: Disability sensitivity

No One Sees My Wheelchair In the Urban Jungle

jungleI don’t care what someone with a spinal cord injury would like you to believe, you never get used to people staring at you. When you become suddenly disabled, the learning curve is pretty tough, and one of the biggest challenges is learning to be ok with being stared at when you go out in public

It can take years to get used to being seen as a person with a disability, if ever, and that’s entirely ok. Who likes to be stared at? Celebrities certainly like the idea, but most everyone else does not.

I on the other hand have been at this lifestyle for 20 years now, and although their stares don’t hurt me as much as they did than when I was 14 (thank god), I always notice them, and it always always bugs me.

I grew up in a small suburb of St. Paul and it only has 28,000 people. It definitely had that small town vibe, and this town was….*drum roll*… White Bear Lake. It was the lake where I was injured too, and the people here are very one note – all white, Christian and able-bodied. After my injury, all everyone saw was my wheelchair, and I slowly began to hate this place.

Since I couldn’t move far far away as on my own, I moved to Minneapolis; a place where no one knew my injury story at least and all the ghastly details. I wanted to be anonymous again, and I also wanted to be treated as if I was able-bodied, but that will never happen.

But it (sorta) worked! After moving to Minneapolis, people rarely stared at me. There are a lot more interesting things out on the streets usually to stare at, from people asking for money and busking to new construction going up. And as their stares lessened, my disability suddenly didn’t bug me as much.

It felt SO quite weird at the beginning of my injury to have so many people to stare me. “So this is what it must be like to be a celebrity,” I though, but it quickly lost its interest. The staring of course was something I wasn’t used to. I was born and raised an able-bodied girl. If anyone was staring at me, it definitely wasn’t a positive thing.

I just wish more people used the “empowered stare,” and realized they’re lucky for everything they have and not just missing the days when they could walk by a group of people and not have one of them notice them. You can still have these days mind you, they’re just really difficult to snag in non-urban areas.

The ultimate dream – to live in a place when you’re not constantly stared at – and I’m sorry to say but moving may be part of the equation if you’re bugged out as much as I am when people stare. Or maybe you don’t mind the stares and you like everyone knowing your story.

Sure, moving may be a giant hassle, but if you can find a place to live where you’re as anonymous as the next guy, the headache of moving is inconsequential. Nothing can beat the feeling of just feeling “like everyone else.”

Would you move to feel less like a pariah?

Photo courtesy of Flickr CC

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