An article by DisabledWorld.com titled Wheelchair Etiquette and Disability Awareness states "Don't pat people in wheelchairs on the head." I think to myself, “Seriously? This must be a cruel joke.” To my surprise, it is not a joke.
After reading the article I realize I can relate to sad truths presented in the article. Not only have I been 'patted on my head' but I have been used as a foot stool! I had mastered the 'unflinching side-eye' before it was even a 'thing'.
Let me explain my point of view as 40 years of being a quadriplegic. [Footnote: I NEVER want to be perceived as exploiting my disability. Forgive me if you have ever thought this. I share because it is my passion to use my journey to increase awareness.]
Disability rights is a civil rights issue.
I was 14 when the American Disability Act (ADA) was signed. Ten of those years were spent navigating life as a quad, in a world that had zero curb cuts (no ramps) and inclusion in classrooms were hard fought for (there was no such thing as an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 Education Plan for students with disabilities). I have ridden in freight elevators to access restaurants. I have been denied service by public transportation and this was all legal, because it was prior to the ADA.
At the time of my injury (1979) an x-ray was the best diagnostic test for determining a spinal cord injury (MRIs were far off the horizon). Ultra-lightweight wheelchairs and/or sports chairs would not come, to my knowledge, until I was in high school, ten years after the onset of my injury. My childhood years were spent in an Earnest & Jennings steel frame wheelchair, weighing roughly 60 pounds - the kind you see in the hospitals. My current wheelchair weighs 12 pounds!
Overcoming Double Discrimination
As a woman living with a disability, I am faced with “double discrimination” of sex and disability. How do I overcome this?
The 'dashes' that fill my life after high school are my favorite; becoming fully independent, marriage, and giving birth twice! Even through all of this, I’m being completely honest when I tell you the 'head patters and foot proppers' are still trying to tear me down! [The agony of critics and antagonists, the 'head patters' will always be there.]
I am an entrepreneur. I am a wife. A mother. An activist. When I contribute in these areas of my life, I actively break down ‘double whammy’ marginalization resulting from my gender and physical challenges.
Every day that I rise from my bed, put in an honest day's work, I mock the 'foot proppers and head patters' and that is enough for me.
Well-established commitments for advancing the rights of persons with disabilities will advance full inclusion and diminish marginalization. Those who live the struggle should be the determinative players in solving these issues.
I am better for living through it all. The years with no ramps, the heavy wheelchair, the ignorant, insensitive things I was called (crippled, convalescent, just to name a few). Make no mistake, I will defend my rights and I will continue to push forward.
The opinions and experiences presented herein are for informational use only. Individual results may vary depending on your condition. Always consult with your health care professional. This individual has been compensated by Bard Medical for the time and effort in preparing this article for BARD’s further use and distribution.
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Key Terms: ADA, American Disability Act, Disability discrimination, awareness, decade of change, civil rights, persons with disabilities, advocates, advocacy. mainstream disability, raising awareness, changing societal views, progressive movements. Inclusive education, economic empowerment, technological innovations, world leaders.
200527-Disability Awareness_ Then and Now BD-18016 APPROVED FOR USE 200728