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.

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19 Responses

  1. Avatar `AJacoby says:

    There are so many things about the every day life of the disabled that the rest of the population just simply does not know. Thank you, Melinda for helping to educate us.

  2. Melinda, you shine.
    Thank you

  3. Avatar Shirley Porras says:

    Melinda,
    You are awesome and your story is so very valuable. Thank you for sharing your heart and educating in a way few others can. I can’t wait to read your journey with Louie!
    Love to you
    Shirley

  4. Avatar Budd Hodges says:

    Hang in there, Melinda, you’ve got it going!

    • Avatar melinda curtis says:

      Thanks. I’m trying to teach abled bodied people that disabled people are human beings too, just with challenges.

  5. Avatar Grammy says:

    People are so ignorant about others health issues that require handicap access. They sure will find out as they get older and require wider doors, wider bathroom doors. Showers that have wider doors. Ramps into businesses and doors that open easily for the disabled.
    Safeway is the only store that will give you a personal shopper if you ask for it. My issue is reading the price and seeing if there is any high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated fat in the ingredients. I swear the print gets smaller every year.
    Imagine walking in someone’s shoes before you make a comment. Most can not and should just keep their mouth shut with a smile on it.
    There is no one braver than a severely handicapped person.

  6. Avatar Jody says:

    Thank you for sharing. You are an inspiration.

    Jody

  7. Avatar Sue says:

    Hi Melinda
    Thank u for your insight. I am engaged to a man that has an amazing 30 yr old daughter with cp. I am constantly wanting to educate myself on how I can be a goo d stepmother to her. She has taught me so much. I would like to ask you a question. Sam has a friend that she says horrible things to and her friend gets angry and then Sam gets severe anxiety with a lot of anger. This friend is all she thinks about. How can we help her with this. It breaks my heart to see her so upset.
    Thank you got your wisdom.
    Sue

  8. Avatar melinda curtis says:

    Let me see if I understand the problem that your having. Sam’s friend says awful things to your step daughter? My advice to Sam would be that’s not a friend at all. A friend is supposed to support you and help with things. You need to tell Sam that nobody should ever call her names or saying bad things about her or her being disabled. Ask Sam this, would she rather be friends with this person and be called names and be made fun of? or would she rather find friends that respects her and cares about her? I know that it is not a good feeling at all to break friendships and it is scary to find new friends. Trust me, be there and done it. But you don’t feel good when you are being put down by anyone. Also Sam needs to find herself and find out what she wants out of life.That’s something that she will have to do alone, sorry to say. If you find out who you are and you start growing a backbone, you will get tried of the rude comments and the rude friends. But seriously, that’s not a friend at all if she makes rude comments and she makes fun of disabled people. I hope I helped you and if need anything else,I will be checking this article daily for the next week. I usually sneak in here in the late afternoons.

  9. Avatar Ron says:

    great story Melinda and sad at the same time. because kids act way better then adults at times and they can teach what most dont have……

    COMPASSION….

    for fellow man kind.

    I have a learning disabled child and the thing that gets me is i can tell the same people over why she does it and you have to be patient with her and they will still complain.

    someday I will get through to them just like you.

    much love and respect you and god bless 🙂

    • Avatar melinda curtis says:

      Hi Ron, Abled bodied people act out of rudeness toward disabled people because they don’t understand what it is like to be disabled. If some people would take the time to just ask questions or really watch us do things in everyday life, maybe they could see our struggles and they wouldn’t judge us or make fun of us. The best thing that you could say to people when they are picking on your kid is, they could be in a wrack or one day they could have an illness that makes them disabled. Trust me, trust me, it makes them stop and think about what they just said. I have had people come back to me, saying: “Oh my gosh, you are right and I shouldn’t have said that.” There is not a book on how to be disabled and there is not a book on how to be a parent to a disabled kid. Some of the rude stuff that I get from people, I have to overlook and I forget about it because I have too. I’m here to educate on the disabled people. Please tell your child that she’s a great kid and you will always be there to support her or him. Having a learning disability, just makes your kid all the more special and don’t worry about what other people think of you.

  10. Avatar Mary says:

    Hi Melinda,

    There’s nothing more powerful than hearing directly from you about your experiences. I believe it will help people to stop and think – and encourage people to lend a hand or kind word rather than ridicule.

    You have the strength (bravo for you) to give all disabled a voice here. Thank you. Keep up the good work.

    Mary

  11. Avatar Grammy says:

    People need to know that anyone can have a special needs child. ANYONE!