Are you “able” to change?

Able-bodied people are arrogant, rude and inconsiderate.

Yes, I said it and will repeat it until people listen. And not with “half an ear” or a by the way but really listen.

My mom has Ankylosing Spondylitis: (fusion of her vertebrae, rendering her incapable of “normal” body movements including simple tasks like turning her head. There are degrees of severity and hers is severe). When I was about 2 years old, she developed a noticeable limp and found it extremely difficult to walk. She started walking with crutches when I was very little. I recall the neighbours would always be saying things like “She’s lovely, just imagine what she would be like if she was normal?”

Children who I had disagreements with would end up saying:” Well, at least my mom isn’t cripple.”

There’d be positions she couldn’t get because of her disability (she was an English teacher) and some schools didn’t “cater” for anyone with special needs.

Children can be cruel but I have realized that the cruelty stems from what they learn from their parents.

I do recall, after yet another fight in the neighbourhood, “defending” my mom’s condition that I wished she could be “normal” so I wouldn’t get picked on or laughed at every time someone had something to say. I was around 6 years old and the moment that thought crossed my mind, I felt a tremendous sense of guilt for even thinking that because I loved her and looking back, I have realized that the bullying made me “ashamed” and so I became tougher and better equipped to handle the jeering and the ridicule. 

As children, we worked and lived around the physical limitations my mom had and it became our life and it seemed that almost overnight, I looked at her in an admiring way. She was my hero besides my mom. 

I realized how much it took to get out of bed, with pain tearing you apart and to get to work to put food on the table and a roof over her children’s heads. 

I realized that she never saw herself as different and would “demand” to be included in everyday life. This included successfully applying for a teaching position in the UK at the “tender” age of 57. She remained there for 3 years. She was strong and in my eyes did so much more than loads of able-bodied people. She has a slim build and barely reaches 5 feet but her dynamic personality makes up for her small stature. 

The only blight besides the grinding poverty was the constant laughing at her from children I wasn’t friends with and her pain she endured every single day. I would hear her cry when she thought we were all asleep and my heart would hurt. I wanted to grow up and look after her and take away her pain.

My mom insisted that there was nothing we as children couldn’t do and so we went through life believing exactly that. Her innate ability to remain positive was for her children’s sake. I don’t think I could have been as strong! And my admiration and love for her only grew especially when I became a mom. 

Life was not easy.

Was she perfect? No, she wasn’t.

Did she mess up and make mistakes? Yes, she did.

Were there some aspects she could have handled better? Of course yes.

But so could we all.

She’s a great grandmother now is fragile and barely able to walk so when she wants to go to the mall for cake and tea, it does take a lot out of her and I have to dedicate hours to this simple outing but it brings her joy.

What doesn’t bring joy are the stares able-bodied people give as if she’s an alien that landed among us. 

What doesn’t bring joy is the impatience of able-bodied people who push their way past us because we are going to slow.

What doesn’t bring joy is the ignorance of able-bodied people when their children ask: “What’s wrong with that lady?” And I hear parents answer “oh she’s crippled!”

I often find myself scowling when I encounter this type of behaviour and it turns what could have been a great day into a “battle” when dealing with able-bodied people.

It’s frustrating dealing with ignorance and when rudeness accompanies that and I have to ask what world we are living in when only physical “perfection” is accepted and loved. 

If I could wish for anything in life it would be for people to live consciously. To be mindful of those that don’t fit into some little “box” that’s been formed in our heads and for able-bodied people to educate themselves and their children not on how “special” people with disabilities are but rather how “normal” they are and how much they and everyone else are a part of us and belong in this world as much as we do.

Favouring able-bodied is called prejudice and it has to stop.