From Stairs To Ramps: Your Stereotypes Of Disabled People Are Hurtful

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My name is Brian and I had an accident in 2014 that changed my life. I was a university student when it happened. Find part one of my story here. I was in the hospital for 2 months before I was discharged to go home, a broken man who did not know if he would ever walk again. The first months were hard – Illness And Infections Made My First Months Home Unbearable And I Got Depressed 

I was first called a cripple on Facebook. It shouldn’t have bothered me as much, but it did. Maybe I  thought the word was too raw and too real. But the truth has a certain pinch, doesn’t it? Why was I enraged about being called something I was? I had got an accident and my limbs had ceased to work like they used to, I was a cripple. I am still am a cripple but like every other person in the world, I wish we could sugar coat my situation and call me “differently abled.”

I’ve been seated on this chair for five years and that time has been sufficient for me to learn a couple of truths about life and how disability relates to it. I’ve learnt that what people say and what they feel are two different things. I have learnt that people fear what they do not understand, and they also fear change; it’s difficult to adjust their mindsets to accommodate those that do not look or behave like them.

After my accident, people flooded in my house to see me. Most had goodness in their hearts, but others were only interested in quenching their curiosities; to see the extent of my injuries and marvel at the fragility of life; ” a once vibrant young man now lies on his bed helpless.”

It’s interesting how disabled people are rarely given the space to speak for themselves. Most of the people who came to see me asked my parents how I was doing while I sat there, alive and well. I didn’t make much of it then, but many years later I’ve seen it happen even more. In the supermarket, I went to the cashier to pay and the young lady looked to my mum to ask whether we’d pay through cash or card. I was the one in the line, but she asked my mum who was standing further away. I went to the doctor to get some tests done and instead of asking me what symptoms I had, he asked my father. It doesn’t seem like much but its subtle discrimination… We can speak for ourselves.

There is a fancy term known as “dignity of risk.” Disabled people, Cancer patients, the elderly among other challenged groups are not given the right to engage in impulsive activities that could have potential risk. For instance, if your grandfather is in fine health and wants to go and do zip lining, Would you gladly accept? No you wouldn’t. You would worry about his age, his heart, diabetes, arthritis… I can’t blame you, you worry because you care. But what about your grandfather? Is the most exciting thing he is allowed to do physiotherapy? Same thing as we disabled people, especially those of us who are still young. We gather our courage and go to the club with the intention of living near to normal lives, but all attention turns to us and people wonder why we are drinking beer instead of taking medicine and having a quiet night at home.

People on wheelchairs look a certain way, don’t they? Their clothes are wrinkled up, the rarely wear shoes because their feet are deformed, they are not the most pleasant people to make acquaintances with; they smell of urine and other uninspiring smells. One of my friends was speaking to an elderly gentleman at a wedding and the old man expressed his commendation towards my friend who was seated on a wheelchair for not “smelling like urine like many of us do”.

Love is a beautiful thing but not as beautiful as being loved back. It’s no secret that matters of the heart can be a bit challenging for the disabled community. I say it’s challenging because it is deemed as not conventional for interabled relationships to be functional. It is difficult for the world to fathom how a beautiful woman would want to be with me; a quadriplegia who has no stable income and whose “business” is no longer in business. They attribute the existence of our union to pity; her pitying me and her having a big heart… So big it loves a broken man.

I will be the first to admit that it is not easy to live in a society that sees a disabled man as incomplete. For long, I told myself that discrimination based on disability didn’t exist, I wanted to believe that people were too busy doing other things. However, the more I shut it away, the more it revealed itself. I have seen people get uncomfortable when I sat next to them in church, luckily, I have learnt to develop a high tolerance for people who don’t like me because of where I sit.

Either way, it is hurtful to be treated as an outcast by people who once saw you as a friend. Because many such friends have reduced me to stereotypes, friendships and brotherhoods that once was, have been left in the past. Maybe one day we won’t have to hide away in our rooms because we are afraid of the insensitivity of the world. We battle so many trials in our lives, don’t let your ignorance be another thing we have to battle.

Find the next part here From Stairs To Ramps: Love, Loss And Trying To Maintain Relationships

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