For your Sunday morning read, I thought I’d address the classic questions that have been thrown in the general direction of my wheels. To be honest, some of the best aren’t even questions – they’re just epic one-liners. The thing they all have in common? They simultaneously baffle me and make me howl with laughter.
“There’s a big girl in a pushchair”.
Now, this comment is fine when it stands alone. It usually comes out the mouth of a kid who’s just curious as to why I have the luxury of sitting down whilst they’re being dragged around the supermarket by you, their frantic parents. Let’s face it, I essentially drive round in a six-wheeled robot, so through the eyes of a child that’s got to be pretty awesome. However, their innocent observation takes an entirely new turn when you respond with…
“It’s not nice to stare”.
In many respects you’re right, but how are we supposed to teach kids about disability and diversity when the first reaction they get is embarrassment mixed with awkwardness? Fair enough, if you don’t know why I’m in a “pushchair” then I understand that you’re not going to be able to fully answer, but I can. I’ve lived with this “giant pushchair” all my life, so just come and ask me. That way, your kid will get to play with a six-wheeled robot whilst I educate you both on how my brain was starved of oxygen around the time of birth, so part of it died which resulted in my “wobbly-leg syndrome”.
Is she okay? Can she understand me? Does she need anything?
This is something that I indirectly get asked as you aim the conversation at the person who happens to be with me. I’d like to take a moment to answer your questions. Yes, I’m okay. Yes, I can understand you; having CP doesn’t automatically reduce my comprehension of your ignorance. And yes, I’d like you to talk to me like any other human being. I am not an alien who bites. Let’s chat and get to know each other, so next time you’re in the supermarket with your kid, you won’t look so terrified when they notice a “big pushchair”.
“It’s so kind of you to make friends with her and take her out for a change of scenery”.
Again, this one is directed at my saintly friends who have taken time out of their day to come and hang out with the disabled girl. It’s also usually a follow-up statement to the multiple questions above. Don’t get me wrong, all my friends are fab, but I didn’t pin them down with all my six wheels and force them to be my friend. It’s just not how I roll. If you like me then great. If not, that’s cool too. I don’t need you to pity me and change the four walls at which I stare.
“Would you rather be physically or mentally disabled?”
Firstly, thank you for being confident enough to ask me. Secondly, what a ridiculous question to ask, and how politically incorrect can you possibly get? As someone who’s only been physically affected by CP, I can only say that I don’t mind having a disability because it’s all I’ve ever known. Sure, it gets annoying at times, but everyone has times that are irritating. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have a learning difficulty or a degenerative disability because I don’t have one, but some of the greatest people I know are in those shoes. In truth, I don’t know how you want me to respond to that question. There isn’t an answer.
“You’re an inspiration”.
I’m not. Having a disability doesn’t make someone the best thing since sliced bread. People seem to hear the word “disabled” and instantly believe that they must be one of the finest beings who roam the earth. This is not the case. Folks who happen to have a disability are the same as folks who don’t. Some you’ll find inspiring, some you’ll despise, and some are mediocre. That’s just the way it goes.