“Like the center of a black hole, my body attracts every good deed from across the universe to the foot of my wheelchair. I move through parking lots and malls, farmers’ markets and airports, bookstores and buffets, and people scramble to my aid.”
“On this particular day, I’m assembling my chair when I hear a man yelling at me from across the parking lot. It’s safe to assume he wants to help me, and I have decades of data to attest that he will not be able to make this routine even the slightest bit easier for me.”
“Did you want anyone’s help? Was it even helpful? What needs did you have that remained ignored or misunderstood? What could be put into place so that you aren’t forced to be dependent on the kindness of a stranger who may or may not be there next time?”
“But who says no to a blessing? I don’t want to be the scowling woman in a wheelchair, raining on the parade of a smiling, optimistic do-gooder.”
“And if you insist on using ‘kindness’ to describe this kind of inclusion, recognize that including disabled people is a kindness for all of us. Because listening to voices that are typically silenced brings to the table nuance, endurance, creativity, beauty, innovation and power.”
On this week’s blog post, Rebekah Taussig shares experiences that are all too familiar to those of us with visible disabilities. The watchful stranger in the parking lot, the feel-good article about the kind stranger feeding the disabled person, the person insisting on “helping” us do something we didn’t really want to do anyway, and the stranger who wants to pray for us-all these scenarios share an outward appearance of kindness without meaningfully challenging the real barriers of inaccessibility. Dr. Taussig also highlights the odd tension the disabled person feels, of needing to accept the misplaced kindness or else appear unkind in return. Her closing message is one that should be familiar by now to Disability Wisdom readers: helping and allyship should be about the recipient’s needs, not the giver’s.