Properly Disabled

I will never take walking for granted again.

Today Mum took me to DFO at Homebush. Since the shopping centre is so huge she felt it would be easier if she pushed me in a wheelchair rather than getting around on crutches.

Sitting in that wheelchair I feel properly disabled and I hate it.

But Mum and I are determined to make the best of it and we speed down the corridor while it’s quiet with Mum jumping on the back and a few wheelies thrown in for good measure.

What strikes me the most is the difference in how people treat me in a wheelchair compared to when I am on crutches.

When on crutches and I ask politely for someone to move so I can get past, people seem to grunt and hardly move at all but in a wheelchair they practically jump out of the way and apologise profusely. They even apogise when Mum rams them accidently in the back of the legs. It’s is entirely our fault but each time they are incredibly apologetic.

I wonder if this is heightened as I am in a hospital wheelchair being pushed rather than just speeding around by myself. I wonder if people think I am dying and just feel incredibly sorry for me.

At a jewelry store as I hand over my money the girl says with a sad smile “you have such a pretty face.”

Puzzled, I thank her. I can’t help but think it is a pity compliment. Like “oh you poor thing you are disabled but at least you have a pretty face.”

When I go to use the disabled toilet I find it occupied and wait outside wondering if whoever is inside is actually disabled.

Out shuffles a young able-bodied guy with a guilty and sheepish look. He avoids eye contact as he walks past.

The kid’s reactions are the hardest to deal with. I know they can’t help it as they are simply kids and don’t know better but their constant and blatant staring is hard to take.

More than once today I catch them cocking their heads, trying to peer up my maxi dress to see if I do indeed have a leg under there.

It is unnerving but at least my arms and hands are rested after being off the crutches and in the wheelchair.

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