Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

Socially Disabled: Latest Illness To Be Formally Named

7 Jun 2011Well I had an interesting weekend... Thought I'd share my tales with you. So, I was enjoying a lovely quiet, Saturday on my own, with my dogs and cat of course. Cleaned up a bit, did some washing, that sort of thing.

Being the impatient/independent person that I am, instead of waiting for my fiancé to come home from work later that night to hang out the sheets, I insisted on hanging them out myself, it looked as though it was going to rain, so I decided to hang them out underneath the awning, on our makeshift clothesline, that's made out of a piece of thin rope.

I dragged an outdoor chair over to where I wanted to hang the first corner of the sheet, so I had something to steady myself on, whilst precariously standing on the cushion of my wheelchair. I hung that corner up, and then dragged the chair to the other end of the line, to hang up the other corner. Did that, put the chair back, then I looked up and thought, ‘that looks a bit droopy', so I decided to climb back up to tighten the sheet, by moving one corner further up the line. I couldn't be bothered to go and grab the chair again, so I just parked my chair next to a downpipe, near the clothesline, and used that to steady myself while I stood up on my cushion. I reached up to the line, almost as high as my arms would go, I grabbed onto it, I let go of the downpipe, so most of my balance was being held by the thin rope that was holding my sheet. All of a sudden, the rope snapped!

I started to lose my balance, and for a split second, saw myself crashing down onto the concrete ground, hearing bones crunching, imagining being stuck there in agony until someone came home, which would've been hours, thinking of all of the things I had planned in the next couple of weeks/months that wouldn't be able to happen, wondering how broken or disfigured I would end up from this high fall.... Then, by some miracle, I gained my balance back, and grabbed for dear life, onto the back of my chair, I slowly climbed down and gathered myself. I must have looked like a ghost, even my dogs came running over to comfort me, as if they'd sensed my fear.

I managed to calm myself down and mentally yell at myself for doing something so stupid, just to save a few seconds of grabbing the outdoor chair. I have to give my recent exercise credit for my balance skills though. I have noticed that my legs are becoming a lot stronger since walking on my crutches, using a cycle/pedal machine and doing hydrotherapy. Without these, I cringe to think about where I could've been today. I'm happy to say, that I'd much rather be at work!

Another saga that I'd like to share is that of a trip to the supermarket I took by myself. You see, having a partner who works afternoon shifts most days of the week/weekend, I find it easier to do the shopping on my own, even though reaching some items or carrying the groceries can be a challenge at times, I always manage.

So this particular trip, I was nearing the end of my journey, going down the frozen food isle. I was scanning the frozen vegies sections, to see which ones were the ones that I needed. This always attracts attention when shopping in a wheelchair, as if sitting there staring at items is really me internally begging anyone around me to reach things that I can't.

There was a shop assistant stacking the shelves with frozen packages of food. He saw me searching the shelves with my eyes and said, ‘do you need any help there?' to which I said, ‘no thank you, I'm fine' and grabbed what I needed, with ease. The man then thought it would be a good idea to say ‘so....... Just shopping on the low shelves are you?', although a bit confused, I gave a polite laugh and said, ‘no, I'm right, I do this all the time' and I proceeded to wheel past him, being clearly independent as I pushed my own trolley full of groceries. That was fine, and I was willing to put it down to the fact that he may not know how to communicate with disabled people all that well. But then, he turned and looked at me, with a sad, pathetic, pitiful look and said ‘at least you're giving it a go'... I just gave him a mixed look of shock, disbelief and anger and wheeled myself, and my trolley away shaking my head.

I was so tempted to go back and ask him what he meant by that. At least I'm giving it a go? What am I meant to be doing? Sitting at home crying, because I'm in a wheelchair? I thought it was quite ironic that an able bodied man who packs groceries for a living was looking at me with pity. Me, who is happy, has one of the best jobs that I know of, who is engaged and about to marry the man I love, who is surrounded by wonderful friends, family and animals. Me! I just couldn't believe what I heard.

I posted this bewildering conversation on my private facebook as my status update, and got a rather angry response, and started a large discussion between my friends and relatives. With most of them telling me that I should have complained. Having more time to think about this, I have decided that this man, this grocery store clerk, was ‘socially disabled' and hasn't been educated enough, if at all, about people with disabilities and how to ‘behave' around them.

The fact that people need to be told how to act around someone with a disability just upsets me, it gives the impression that we are less than human, and don't deserve to be treated with dignity, like the rest of the human race.

Because of this incident, it has made me even more determined to educate people about people with disabilities. I am not going to complain about that man, but I will be writing a letter to the store manager, advising them that perhaps their staff should be taught about interacting with someone with a disability, so this doesn't happen to anyone else.

So, I urge you, next time you're out, go up to a stranger at a party, or a function and introduce yourself to an able bodied person, let them see that you are the same as them, you just might be in a different wrapper....

The more people who meet people with disabilities, the better this world will be. Just like I say, everyone in the world, should know someone with a disability, if they did, we would live in a much more compassionate and understanding place.

Socially Disabled: Latest Illness To Be Formally Named

FYI: These trolleys DON'T fit all wheelchairs and they don't carry enough!!

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Previous Comments

cheryl from central coast nsw posted on 7 Jun 2011
i have worked with people with disabilities since i was 13 and am now 52 but i am still taken off guard at the amount of times i underestimate those i know and work with

Tracey Tanner from Brisbane posted on 7 Jun 2011
Wow Jo First of all I hope your ok even though you didnt fall the shock in your body sometimes and make you feel sore I know it does to me. I also know what your saying when it comes to doing things for your self in shops I have in the past had to deal with that... I am very lucky where I am the little shopping centre all know me well and the staff are great to the point they all joke with me but you are right if every person that can walk and thinks there normal should spend time in the shoes of a person who is not and then maybe they would understand if we want help we will ask for it and not to be pitted on.

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