This is going to be a rant, because I just need to let off some steam. One of things that I have learned since becoming disabled, is that I am invisible. Regular readers know that I use a mobility scooter, because I cannot stand for long and have difficulty walking even the shortest distances. This weekend, we needed a few odds and ends for the house and because the unhusband had to work, the task fell to me. I got on my scooter and headed to my local mart. The abelism greeted me before I could even make it to the local grocery store.
Before shopping, I had to go to the bank, and would believe that a woman waited a full five minutes to hold the door for me, though it had an automatic door opener? As I rolled the opposite direction to go out the front door of the bank, which was in the direction I was heading, she called after me saying, “Miss, don’t go that way, I have been waiting to hold the door for you.” So she was waiting to hold a door that I had no intention of going through, that had automatic door openers should I have chosen to use them and I was expected to be thankful. That her behaviour was anything but helpful, did not even cross her mind and people seemed surprised when I refused to go out the door she had been waiting to hold.
Instead of taking my turn entering the store with everyone else, I was forced to wait. People simply pushed their cart in front of me and because I didn’t want to take the risk of hitting someone, I waited. Normally, there is a give and take when people share a space, but apparently, my right to take up space evaporates anytime I am in public with my scooter. One woman even walked right into me while I was stationary and then had the nerve to blame me. You see, sitting in my scooter means that I am no longer at eye level and therefore invisible to those who seem to willfully forget that the disabled exist. I suppose she expected me to move out of her way, but why should I when I there first? Do these people walk into children that easily, or is it only fire engine red scooters that are hard to see?
I waited patiently for a woman to finish stocking the bananas, so that I could grab a bunch for my family. The moment she finished, a woman cut right in front of me and helped herself, while my body smoldered with rage. She glanced over her shoulder and smiled at me as she walked away. Of course there was no need to actually apologize, because I am just a disabled woman in a world created for able bodied people. Time and time again, I get cut off or pushed to the side — unless of course, I am in front of a door — at which point people race to help me, even when no help is needed. To many, helping those with disabilities means holding a door, but it certainly does not mean giving us basic human respect.
I have even had a commenter on this blog, suggest to me on one of my numerous disability posts, that I should always yield the right of way, because my scooter is a motorized vehicle — thus pushing the able bodied people into the category of pedestrians. He was absolutely serious when he wrote that as well. This approach, which by the way is common, ignores the fact that the scooter functions as my legs. If I were to follow this suggestion, it would mean that in every single situation, the right of way would always go to the able bodied person — leaving the disabled individual to wait until someone decided to permit movement. Unfortunately, the reality is that because I don’t want to run anyone over, I am forever waiting and it puts me into an automatic secondary status. I continually hear or read reports about able bodied people being run over by scooter users and rarely is there serious conversation about the role that the able bodied person played in the collision. This is not to say that every accident is the fault of the able bodied person, but simply to highlight the fact that the disabled person is not always at fault.
By the time I am done with shopping, I am usually a tangled ball of stress, only to have to deal with people who don’t believe that I belong on the sidewalk because my scooter takes up too much room, or cars that don’t want to treat me like a pedestrian when I cross the street. It is enough to make me wonder some days why I bothered to leave the house, even though I know that this is the exact thought process that ableism seeks to encourage. The “othering” of people with disabilities happens every day and in the most common circumstances. It makes me want to scream at people who do things that I can do for myself and then wait expectantly for a thank you, because I know that these same people think nothing of cutting right in front of me in line, or ignoring my existence when it is less convenient for them to acknowledge me.
There is this constant whine about disabled people wanting special privileges, but yet daily, basic human courtesy is out of the realm of possibility in an ableist world. Yeah, I am not one of those nice cripples that you construct in your mind. I am the fucking bitch that wants you to get the hell out of my way, because every second that I waste putting up with your ableist bullshit takes to much time out of my day. Holding open the door does not make you the patron saint of disability.