Friday, April 30, 2010

BADD 2010: I know a person in a wheelchair who....

The conversation usually starts like this: "I know a person in a wheelchair who..." and you fill in the blank. It can be anything from "climbed Mt. Everest" to "walked again" to "wears purple every day".

It took me years to figure out that it just didn't matter what followed the words "I know a person in a wheelchair who..."

For all that is said by people when they compare disabled people to one another, much of it is useless. That kind of talk is cheap. I'd like to have a nickel for every time I've heard this done, where people who have no clue what it's like to live with a disability do it.

I remember meeting a guy when I was newly disabled who worked for years to start his own business. He had been a quadriplegic for 15 years. He owned an RV that he used for travel in a job he loved. Everything was accessible. He was successful, happy and friendly. I was still trying to figure out how to plan my life out. When I asked him how long it took him to accomplish all that, he smiled and said "A long time. I figured out what my dreams were. I planned and- well- some of it worked out."

He spread a message that others could be successful, but he never criticized anyone who wasn't where he was at. He never held himself up as better than anyone else. He would never want to be used as "the person in the wheelchair who...", so this is not a story I'm telling for that reason. What mattered was his message of hope. I never forgot that.

Because all our dreams are different, because we all have different plans, the best gift we can all give each other is to offer encouragement, not comparisons.

I know lots of people in wheelchairs who have done lots of things. But he's my go-to guy. That says a lot.

This post was written as part of Blogging Against Disablism Day 2010.


Jill said...

I've linked to your blog last year on BADD about being as healthy as a horse and still not being able to button a shirt, but then, neither could the horse. Disability is Not a Disese, I think it was called.

Anyway my readers and my Facebook community may be stopping by to dip into your words and wanders as a wheelie catholic.


imfunnytoo said...

Ruth, I love this Happy BADD

Mary said...

I've never been sure which is worse.

I don't like being criticised for not matching the accomplishments of others - "she has [similar diagnostic label] and she has a full-time job and seventeen kids and grows all her own food on her allotment, why can't you?"

But I feel just as uncomfortable when it's me and my part-time job that are being used as a stick to beat someone else.

Stephen said...

Beautifully written. Inspiration cannot be forced with well meaning stories. It's passed on with care and true understanding.

RehaDesign said...

I know a woman in a wheelchair who wrote a very good BADD post. Well said. :)

Naomi J. said...

Great post!

- Naomi

Anonymous said...

Great post. And thank you- the title inspired me to write a poem, full of compliments to people on wheels!

Anonymous said...

Great post. And thank you- the title inspired me to write a poem, full of compliments to people on wheels!

Wheelchair Dancer said...

I know ...

I don't understand why it is so hard for people to understand that although the name/word/diagnosis might be the same, the experience is different.

thank you

Never That Easy said...

Again, another example of how the idea that individuals with disabilities are INDIVIDUALS is radical to most people, so thanks for this great post.