Making people uncomfortable w/o trying

Let’s face it, people in wheelchairs live on the fringes of society. Many of us break our way in, whether through jobs, family or friends, but overall we’re still considered “fringers.” Society loves putting us there.

It’s not rocket science to understand why either. When you’re not the same as everybody else in a human society, this happens. Religion and race can be hard enough for people to get over, asking them to look past a disability can be nearly impossible, unless they’ve had direct experience with someone with a disability that is, and then it’s a completely different story.

For example, my sister starting at age 7 had someone in her family with a major disability (me). She’s always known a full-time wheelchair-user, so for her, when she happens upon someone with a disability, she doesn’t freak out or feel as if she’s suffocating in a room she needs to get out of asap. A disability isn’t the end of the world. She can roll with it.

But as we all know this isn’t the case for a lot of people. Have you ever been out in public and had the uncanny feeling you were making someone uncomfortable without even trying? Most people just aren’t that comfortable around anyone that’s different, especially if it’s a physical kind of different. I don’t know about you, but making people uncomfortable just by going through my day to day activities is getting old.

Should we even care if we make people uncomfortable? Or, should we take it upon ourselves to try to make them feel more at ease? I know for me, I don’t always have time to babysit people who are uncomfortable. I can only soothe nerves by explaining my injury so many times, before I feel like my quality of life is being affected. If you feel like this is happening to you, you need to stop right there. Making people feel comfortable around us should never trump our own needs.

I know I’ve made lots of people uncomfortable these past 20 years. It happens everywhere I go. People will say I’m too confident or borderline intimidating because of my wheelchair being present. Ten to one, if my injury had never happened, I would still be called brash, but not “intimidating.” They tell you to be confident in rehab, and then when you you do….you’re intimidating. You just can’t win.

All I know is that life is too short to take strangers feelings into consideration whenever this happens. You should always be polite of course, but if your very presence makes people so uncomfortable, no, I have no aloha for that. We can always change how we respond when it happens.

Don’t get offended when people feel uncomfortable. Really. Instead, consider it a standard part of the dis-life and try to laugh it off. If our wheelchairs (oooh scary chairs on wheels) really freak out people that much, I dunno….they deserve to be uncomfortable.

When people are intimidated or uncomfortable, what do you do? Or do you even care when it happens?

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