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  • Strange encounters of the disabled kind

    Posted by deann-r on September 8, 2023 at 9:43 am

    Strange encounters are not uncommon when you have an obvious disability. Sometimes they still catch me off guard. Today I ventured downtown without my service dog. It’s been ridiculously hot, and I didn’t want to subject him to the heat. Next time I don’t think I’ll leave him behind. Unless it’s still hot, then I’ll have to reevaluate.

    Maneuvering the aging sidewalks in my town can be challenging so I traverse them with caution. On my way home a car pulled into the upcoming intersection. I slowed down thinking it would give them time to turn before I needed to cross.

    Instead, they backed up and pulled over. Thinking they had forgotten something or needed to take a call I continued crossing the street. From behind me, a woman shouted, “Ma’am, ma’am!” Assuming something fell off my chair or dropped out of my bag I turned around.

    “Yes?” I questioned as I looked around for random wheelchair parts.

    Walking up to me with something in her hand she said, “I feel so bad for you.” Pointing to my wheelchair and Jaco she continued as she leaned down to my level, “I’m sure all that makes it easier but…”

    At this point, I interrupted her, “There’s no need to feel sorry for me, I have a great life.” Maybe this threw her off guard as she agreed like she wasn’t implying I was a miserable wayward soul. She then held out a package of belVita biscuits and tried to offer them to me. I politely declined.

    I booked it down the sidewalk wondering if my response was appropriate. Should I have told her I have a feeding tube and avoid crunchy foods? Would that make her pity me even more? Should I have explained it’s not appropriate to stop random disabled people?

    What was she thinking? Did she think a granola bar was going to give me the energy to make it home on these treacherous sidewalks? Did I look that pathetic?

    It’s difficult not to internalize a situation like this. I’ve been stewing about it all day. Something like this hasn’t happened in a long time, probably because I usually have my service dog with me. Although deflection isn’t among their tasks it’s been a benefit for sure. In this day and age, I thought we’d be beyond needing to deflect but I guess not.

    What strange encounters of the disabled kind have you experienced? How do you react?

    alyssa-silva replied 7 months, 2 weeks ago 2 Members · 1 Reply
  • 1 Reply
  • alyssa-silva

    September 11, 2023 at 9:16 am

    Ughhh situations like these really grind my gears. I can’t remember a specific time when someone handed me BelVita biscuits or food in general. But I have had many encounters where strangers say that feel sorry for me and hand me pamphlets about Jesus and sufferings. Those are usually my “souvenirs” when I’m out and about.

    I always handle every strange encounter with kindness— even when I want to run them over— and politely explain it’s not necessary to feel sorry for me. But unfortunately, I don’t think people get it. Have you ever had a teachable moment with a stranger before?

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