This is not worth your time. It probably will not teach you anything you already didn’t know. The result? You will walk away feeling stupid. Maybe just maybe you will feel as if I have wasted your time! The statements I made will be true for some people and not true for others reading this. By stating the intended outcome I’ve negated a few different things. The truth is I don’t know how anyone of you reading this will feel. I certainly have no right to make you feel stupid or determine anything you will or should feel, think or learn from reading. Not all my readers will walk away as many likely have a disability that prevents that from being the reality. Also, why on earth would I begin to write anything then tell you not to read it? It’s pointless for me to write something to teach anyone anything if I encourage them not to read what I have written or assume reading will only make them feel bad about themselves. As I’ve done so far society also negates disability in many ways!

It’s a sunny day, mid-winter, after a huge snowfall. There is no side to the road leaving you navigating as close to the edge as you can not obstructing traffic. As a wheelchair user, I am expected and should attempt to do the same. But some factors make this different for each of us. One big one is the amount of snow you can walk through verses the amount my chair can get through. While you and I are on the road a transport truck passes by which is scary. Being larger and higher off the road makes this situation dangerous. While we both realize this is dangerous and experience fear we both perceive the same situation differently. The perspective from which we see the situation is, literally, different. As a walking/standing person the truck, while still large and scary, you can see the person driving, easily look through the window and the truck doesn’t seem as it will come as close to you. As a wheelchair user, I am eye level to the headlights or front bumper plus the wheelchair means I am slightly wider than you as a standing/walking person. The circumstances of either perspective result in fear and threat regardless of one of us being able-bodied versus a wheelchair user.

Similar to the last example lets say both of us are going to get groceries. You walk and I use my wheelchair but we are the same distance from the store. It’s mid-winter like it was in the other example. I ask you what the weather is like and you say a great day to be out as long as I am dressed for it. You say it’s a little cold and windy but I should have no problem. You have not in any way given me false information but you overlooked one difference and in this situation one that matters. Walking to the store dressed properly you are generating body heat from the moving that is involved in walking. It’s just as easy using a powerchair for me to do the same task of physically getting to the store. You may assume and be correct in thinking that because its a power chair that I can accomplish this task faster then you could. You may feel that these factors make it easier for me than you. The reason why the difference of me being in a power chair and you being a walker is that unlike you I am moving through space not moving in space. The chair is more like a vehicle in this case but without windows and doors. This means that just like a car it generates wind the faster it moves. So, if it’s windy and cold to me it feels even windier and colder. It seems to make sense and its reasonable that this would be the reality. What each of us perceives to be reality is our reality. My experience and your experience doesn’t cancel each other out nor make them false. What’s most likely to come next is, unfortunately, an overriding of my experience because of your experience.

There have been countless times in my life that I’ve been colder than others around me due to sitting in one place and not moving or as in the example moving through space rather than in space. People automatically like to challenge this and accuse me of being wrong, see me as weak or fragile concluding that I cant handle anything. They also like to challenge this using their perception of the situation to negate how I should feel about it, deem me to be overreacting, claiming that they did the same thing and it wasn’t that bad. It is hidden under the idea that I am no different and to be treated no different which is seen as harmless. This turns into a silent saying that if it has any impact on me that is wrong. In your reality doesn’t and really shouldn’t affect me. This honestly isn’t the case nor is it an accurate or a fair judgment to make. Making such an assessment is wrong and hurtful. Such things do affect me, the way I view the world and see myself in it.

90 percent of women with disabilities are sexually assaulted and raped. The risk factor is missing one of the essential senses that helps you be aware of your surroundings. A blind person being unable to see puts them at a higher risk of being grabbed from any direction. They have no visual way to read the situation, to pick up on details from those around them, or of knowing who may be unsafe or seem sketchy. With someone who is deaf, they are unable to hear what’s coming so should they find themselves in a situation where someone is attacking them from behind they don’t hear the footsteps alerting them to be able to run and escape. For me, everyone is bigger and stronger. Should I be approached I’m physically unable to remove myself. It doesn’t take much to tip over a chair either on purpose or accidental. If I am grabbed or removed from the chair I can’t kick.

Depending on if the chair is powered or manual also plays part in the situation. A manual chair requires my strength to move whereas a power chair doesn’t plus it can harm others. If I were to run over a person’s foot it will break. Even if nothing happens beyond being removed from my chair or with no intent to harm me it feels threatening. Because my disability requires such things it seems to make people feel that it means consent is eliminated.

The percentage above is for rape and assault in females. There are disabled males and many forms of abuse that can take place. I am in no way saying that those with disabilities can not be abusive toward others because they can but because society sees disability the way it does it’s for more likely that able-bodied people are seen as good people only because disabled people are seen as weak and in need of help. Yet, we have statistics like above to prove that abuse happens at the hands of those people who see us as the perfect victim and target us.

As in the above examples, those with disabilities still experience the same as anyone else does in the same situation. We are all different, unique and do not, for any reason, have the right to tell anyone their experience or how they think or feel about an experience. As a disabled person what society teaches results in abled-bodied people feeling entitled and permitted to do this. It is accepted as doing good when it may not be. This is not because it’s a matter of right versus wrong or good versus bad. Society has taught us that disability is a flaw that needs a fix, is a weaker uneducated individual that needs to be taught, that bad behavior needs to be corrected and a discouraging life needs encouragement. Your perception of my reality is just that your perception. That does not make it a fact or reality for me. If I don’t have the right to stand up for myself and educated you when you assume things about me that are incorrect you shouldn’t have the right to or take on the responsibility of society to educate me on how to be a decent human being or how to show up in the world to make you more comfortable. Disability isn’t something to debate but does at times make us equally unequal.

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