My Brief Time in a Wheelchair

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My Brief Time in a Wheelchair

Why didn’t she smile at me? Why did he avoid eye contact with me? I smiled, I said hello. Ah, yes. The wheelchair. For a split second, I forgot that I was sitting in a wheelchair as the young couple scurried by me. It seemed so natural for me to smile and greet someone as they pass, and it hurt that a similar greeting was not returned.

This was not the only hurtful reaction I received as I learned to operate a wheelchair around a K-Mart. And, it was not easy to maneuver myself around the store. At one point I knocked down a pile of blankets on a shelf and in the clothing section, I caught my wheelchair on a rack of shirts.

The point of my experiment in a wheelchair was to note
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There was another distinctive reaction I received. For the same reason adults looked away from me, children stared. I was an adult who was at their level, height-wise in reality, but maybe seen as an equal to themselves. They stared and I imagine they wondered about me with love and concern only a child can give unconditionally to anyone. They ask themselves why is this person in a wheelchair and how is that fair? It is the child’s parent who teaches them not to care by hustling their child out of sight, as if my looking at the child is a cancerous wish upon them to receive my disabled fate.

Subpart B, General Requirements, Section 36.201 of the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990, says the following: “Prohibition of discrimination. No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any private entity who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.”

The ADA makes any discrimination against disabled people just as illegal as the 19th Amendment for Women’s Suffrage made it illegal to discriminate against women. Disabled people are afforded the same opportunities as anyone else, but as I have learned, “prohibition

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