I’ve gotten used to being looked at when I roll into a room in my wheelchair. My disability is visible, so I don’t have the option of whether or not to disclose that I am disabled. People can immediately tell, so I often arrive with a “let’s see how this person will react when they realize I’m disabled” attitude. Sometimes it’s no big deal, and other times things get super awkward.
The rise of video meetings has changed the way I enter a room.
Join meeting. Select audio. Turn on video. Adjust my shirt. Fix my hair.
We are all just boxes on a screen with thoughtfully-designed backdrops, bookcases or artwork. Some wear accessories or fun hairstyles in efforts to feel creative and unique. Personally, I started wearing earrings, sometimes makeup, and I switched up the corners of my house where I join meetings. Thinking about my virtual persona, I realized people don’t get to see my wheelchair when I enter the room anymore. They don’t get to make assumptions about my abilities. They just get to see my face and listen to all the smart things I have to say.
I’m trying to figure out my feelings around this because I realized that I purposely find ways to show my “quad hands” during a meeting with someone who doesn’t know I’m disabled. I will pick up my mug of coffee or drink water, apply lip balm or move my hair. Sometimes, as a meeting continues into dusk, I even get to move across the room to turn on the light switch, and the other attendees get to see me in my wheelchair.
So many times, I have wanted to hide my disability, but now I don’t want that part of my identity to be unseen. I like that people know I’m disabled, and I want them to know.