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Wheelchair Yet Again Equals Invisible

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Zephyr | 22:40 UK time, Friday, 2 November 2007

I saw something on the bus a little while ago that really boiled my blood. I was waiting for the bus at rush hour in a huge line-up of people. When the bus came, a bunch of people went on ahead of me, but I wasn't really worried. I was having an OK day, and it was only a few stops from home. I could wait, or stand on the bus if I needed to. Then I noticed an older women in a wheelchair waiting in line with a child on her lap. People kept filing past her like she wasn't even there! It made me so angry. I went over to her and asked her if she was waiting to get on the bus, and she said yes. Then a lady asked ME if I needed help getting a seat. Typical. In the Disability Hierarchy, young women on canes are way up there, and it makes me mad. I said "Yes, but this lady here also needs help getting on the bus."

It seemed like the Samaritan woman didn't hear me. We got on the bus and she asked someone to give up a seat for me. That was great, but I was really concerned about the older lady. I mean, she had a kid with her, for God's sake. I asked the bus driver if there was room for her on the bus, and if he could help get her on, and he just gave me this blank look and shrugged. Then the Samaritan woman piped up and asked people to move aside to let the woman on, but people kept filing on the bus ahead of her like zombies. I was aghast. They treated her like she wasn't even there!

She never did get on that bus. I spent the rest of the ride home glowering at everybody. I wouldn't wish disability on my worse enemy, but I found myself fervently hoping they could all get to experience what they put that lady through today. I'd share what I really think of those people, but Ouch! doesn't let me use curse words in my posts.

Courtesy seats are for PWDs, the elderly, and people with children. That lady had all three, but people didn't even see her because she was in a wheelchair. Why do people think that Wheelchair=Invisible?

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*nod* I've been amazed at how much MORE invisible I've become since using a wheelchair. I thought it would make me more visible (and in some ways it does - especially at work, where the students are always asking me if I need help, in a sweet but irritating way), but those times are far outweighed by the ones where people ignore me, bump into me, miss me because they're not looking down, and generally treat me like I don't exist. On the whole, I prefer the slightly patronising way that my students ask if I need help. At least they're trying.

  • 2.
  • At 12:44 PM on 03 Nov 2007, Dave Hingsburger wrote:

"I wouldn't wish disability on my worst enemy." Where did that come from? I can think of plenty worse things to wish on people other than disability. In fact, I think disability and disability culture is kinda cool, I think that disability is too good for clods like those on the bus ... but maybe that's just me.

Sorry, Dave, I was thinking of MY disability when I wrote that. I think arthritis (and chronic pain disorders) really sucks, but that's me. Your mileage may vary.

How much do you think is the wheelchair and how much is it an age thing? I have a wheelchair, and when I lived in London I used buses all the time. I rarely experienced being invisible, but I was in my twenties. If anything I spent much more time politely declining help rather than trying to get noticed.

Mind you, people often thought I was a "normal" person with an injury, (I was frequently asked "So, what have you done to yourself?", "Acquired a neurological disorder..."), which may also make me more visible. But I do think age makes more of a difference.

What a horrible thing to have to experience. My friend suffers from FM and it amazes me what dumb things will people say or do at times. Great blog...Di

Sara - I totally believe age was a factor. You see, I'm young and pretty. She was old and not fresh and pretty anymore. Therefore, everyone jumped to help me and overlooked her. It made me SO mad. It's agist, looksist, and I won't always be young and pretty myself.

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