If anybody asks me now about how I cope with my disability, I often compare it to a hair colour: I have it, and sometimes it’s OK, and sometimes it’s just annoying. But I haven’t always been this laid back about coping with my disability. When I was younger, I often found it hard to accept help and sometimes felt really uncomfortable if the conversation ever suddenly turned to disabilities, wheelchairs and things like that.
I still remember exactly how the thought of a stranger pushing my wheelchair sent cold shivers down my spine. But now everything looks a lot different. I’ve since gotten better at accepting myself how I am. This has made life a whole lot easier. What exactly do I do now that I didn’t before? I’ll try to explain it:
I’m no longer ashamed of my disability
Before, I found it unpleasant travelling on public transport. I didn’t want to be the one that made the bus driver have to get up and fold out the ramp and then put it back again. Especially when impatient passengers would give me angry looks – I found it really upsetting. Today, I have a different view on things. We all need help sometime in certain places and I just need a ramp in these situations.
Smile if crying just isn’t enough…
Unfortunately there are still people who react negatively towards me, don’t take me seriously, or worse even. My mobile was stolen from me a few times – and at the time, I used to feel really scared because I just couldn’t protect myself in this situation and these idiots were well aware of that. A few days later, I’d then just always say to myself: “Okay, well, this is probably inclusion too”.
I can accept help
I now know that I can be independent, even if I accept help sometime. Even in a city full of grumblers like Berlin, there are also plenty of helpful people. If I openly ask for help, I nearly always find a helping hand. It works best when I just say clearly when I need help and when I don’t. This means my environment knows the score straightaway, and ultimately, I am the one who is acting independently.
Think for two people
My disability means that I need help in a few situations, and what turned out to be complicated at the start, is now a nice thing because I always have to do my scheduling for two people. When I travel to Cologne, for example, I need to know if and when I need assistance. I’m also now able to apply this kind of thinking to projects and quickly come up with a plan B.
This makes me more relaxed when people feel uncomfortable because of my disability.
I don’t want people around me to feel intimidated by me or my disability.
Nobody should feel unnecessarily uneasy. This is why I’ve come up with a few tactics that make it easier for me and other people. It can be tiring if I’m just not in the mood to be cheerful, but it works. If they’re just ordinary people that I don’t have anything to do with, then I just ignore them. And if I meet someone new, I find that plenty of humour helps and maybe even a wheelchair user joke also tends to help things along! This way, everyone knows they can’t say anything wrong. In particularly difficult situations and with very inquisitive people, I just slip in things like “it’s just brittle bones”. This satisfies the greatest thirst for knowledge and I’m left in peace.
So now you know a few of my day-to-day tricks but what about you? How do you handle everyday situations, what are you scared of and what do you do now that you didn’t before?
This text was written for the Aktion Mensch inclusion blog.