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Please see me…


Since the late 90’s, my M.S. had progressed to the point that I needed a power chair.   Needing a wheel chair does not define a person.

Experiencing people’s reaction to me in a chair has been a study in human behavior.  While eating out with my family recently, I went to get a refill of my drink and a woman asked me “How can you be so happy?” I was baffled and asked her what she meant. “Well, you’re in a wheelchair, so how can you be happy?” I was absolutely flabbergasted.  I think of these encounters as opportunities to educate so I explained the chair simply took the place of my legs. I am happy by choice.

On another occasion I was waiting for my ride after work in a doctor’s office. Many people going in and out would ignore me, even after I said hello. I felt invisible. One day I forgot to take off my stethoscope and EVERYONE responded to my greetings!

Did being a doctor or nurse make me more approachable or somehow less handicapped?  In crowded stores I am often bumped into or tripped over, again giving me the feeling of being invisible. Experimenting, I wore my stethoscope the next time I went shopping and not only was I not bumped into but people were would ask me if I needed any help! Many people either smiled or nodded at me as I shopped.

Was it possible that looking like a professional somehow altered people’s perception of me from being a disabled person to being “one of them”?  Was a stethoscope like a magic wand that suddenly made me visible?

My question is what perceptions do you have when seeing someone in a chair;  or of a different skin color, nationality or religion?

Article written by Laura Conant, freelance writer for Calumet Park

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