How Do You Share a Perspective That You Don't Have?
I don't use a wheelchair. I don't have crutches. I don't need a wheelchair accessible vehicle to get from home to work and out and about. For all intents and purposes, maybe I don't get it after all. I love my job at BraunAbility and I am proud of the work I get to do every day. I know I get to make a difference. Once in a while, I get to work alongside true advocates for change and equality for people living with mobility issues, and I get it and know all of the facts. I don't live it every day though.
On occasion, I get the question of what I write about and what work I do, and I explain the good things we do and the works of people whose stories I write, but sometimes I am just met with nods as if I had said that I flip burgers. Please, no offense to those who flip burgers for an occupation, I did that for a while myself. Chalk some of it up to natural human distractions, but some of it I think it is because I don't live the life that I help promote.
How do I push for a better ramp system when I've never had to use a ramp system myself? Truth be told, I am not sure I have an answer.
But for every blank stare I have received, for every person who has looked at my functioning legs and wrote me off, I have had a thank you from another. A letter of thanks from someone whose story I shared. A smile from someone with a cane who was finally noticed for them and not their injury. And maybe, this is what it means to advocate in the end.
So I will go out and keep trying. I will do what I can by telling stories of people doing amazing things, and spreading the news of the ongoing work of groups and individuals I cross paths with. I will even keep talking to my friends about it. The way I see it, every smile of understanding I get should be worth all of the blank stares.
To everyone reading this who is living life from the perspective of a wheelchair, I am sorry. I may never truly see eye to eye with you. I try, yet it is not enough. I can't always make others see you for more than your wheelchair, but I am trying, and I hope that is enough.