Able-Minded in a Disabled Body: Some Able-Bodied Need an Education

A lot of abled bodied people don’t always understand how hard it is to be disabled. At times, it makes me feel angry. Other times, I feel sad.

I have had people pull over in their cars and yell horrible things at me as I ride by them in my wheelchair. They yell things like, “You are stupid, you belong in a home, and they should not let you out.”

There were times my feelings were so hurt that I would cry.

When I was a kid, my mom wanted me to become independent, even though I had cerebral palsy. She wanted me to learn how to ride the bus to school and to town.

Melinda Kaiser as a child.

As a teenager, I was scared of how people would re-act to me being out alone. The bus was not a problem because we had Demand Response, and they came right to my house to pick me up and drop me off.

I was friends with most of my bus drivers, and they got to the point where they got to where they could understand me pretty well, so talking and joking with them was easy for me.

The problem that I had was the people staring at me, and they comments that they would make as I shopped. They didn’t know that I could hear them, but I usually did, and it was hard to not want to lock myself in my bedroom and not come out again.

It’s hard for me to admit this, but I have to get on my knees to go to bathroom because I was never taught how to hold onto the bars and get undressed. Frankly, the other reason I do this is I was always too afraid of falling and getting hurt. So, when I used a store bathroom, I’d have to get on my knees and hope I was the only one there. A few times there were other ladies in the restroom, and that’s when the rude comments start.

I would hear the ladies say that the floor was dirty, and I shouldn’t be on it. The comment that I loved the most was they would ask me where my mother or my caretaker was. If somebody was standing by me, other women would ask them if they were with me, or if they knew me.

As a young kid, I got tired of the looks and the rude remarks, and I stopped using the bathroom in public. I would go to the restroom before I left my house, and I would hope to God that I didn’t have to go again until I got home.

As I got in my twenties, and I had to be away from home most of the day, I started to get more self-confidence in myself, and I didn’t give a flying leap what people thought of me. If I needed to use the restroom, I was going, and if people didn’t like it that it was their problem, and not my problem.

What some people don’t get is that I’m a human being, and I have feelings, just like everybody else.

I would rather have people come up to me and ask me why I’m in a wheelchair, than hear rude comments about me. I have had little kids come up to me and ask me why I’m sitting in a wheelchair, or why I talk different. They might not understand what I said to them, but it makes me feel good they have at least asked me.

If the kids are able to understand me, they will ask me for a hug or just to look at my wheelchair. I hug the kids back, and I let them touch my wheelchair.

If they are older kids, and I know the family well, they will ask me to drive my wheelchair or hug me, and I usually let them. I really think that kids should be allowed to learn about disabled people, so they are not afraid of them, and the kids should be able to ask questions.

I have had a lot of parents come up to me after their kids have asked me a question, and they tell me how sorry they are that their kids have bothered me. I tell them that it is alright, but I would rather they come ask me, than to wonder about my disability. I just wish that the able-bodied people were a little more educated about disabled people.

I hope that through my articles, I can help them understand that disabled people are just like normal people, it’s just that we have some special challenges that we have to face in our everyday lives.

Melinda Kaiser-Curtis lives in Anderson with her husband, Geff, and the couple’s three dogs. She enjoys music, writing, reading, swimming, working on the computer, shopping and watching movies.

Melinda Kaiser-Curtis

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