Mel Rising Dawn Cordeiro
I would like to start off by saying that the views expressed in this article are strictly my own. Though some views may be similar, they do not reflect the views of Rhode Island College, The Anchor and others in the disabled community.
If anyone has a comment that they would like to express, a story they would like to share or even ask me a question pertaining to this article, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will gladly start a dialogue with you.
Lately, I have been made to feel like an “inclusivity pawn.” I’m pretty sure I made that term up, but what I mean by that is that I feel as if I am nothing more than a showcase. I have written past articles about my disabilities here and here, but for the sake of this article I will remind everyone that I have mobility issues and walk with a Canadian crutch, or sometimes two. I do not use them all the time, as it is safe for me to walk short distances without them. I also do not use them if I am going for a small walk with people I know, due to the fact that I am around people who can help me if need be.
I cannot say for sure if I am truly a showcase or not, as I am not the other parties involved, but I have had two recent occurrences lately regarding my crutches. The first incident, I was told that I cannot bring my crutch somewhere because they “click and are a distraction.” I can just about guarantee that the person who told me that was the only one bothered by them, and if they weren’t, then I’m not even sure why it was said.
The other incident involved someone else saying that I am unable to join them due to the fact that I will need to move and will require a crutch. I would like to say that both occurrences were satisfactorily resolved, but I do still feel a little salty about this, and offended. Both people did a good amount of backpedaling when confronted.
Just because I have a disability does not mean that I do not have abilities. There are plenty of things I am still physically able to do. I very much appreciate when friends tell me to go slow, or warn me about stairs. I enjoy when they do little things for me, such as open the door or offer to carry my lunch back to the office for me, but a lot of possibly irrational questions have been brought to mind recently.
I have always promised my friends that I will tell them if I need help and will generally communicate my needs to them. This begs the question of me not being trustworthy and of being an “inclusivity pawn.” Do you not believe me when I tell you that I’m okay, or that I can or want to do something? Am I only around for you to say, “look, here is a disabled person! Look how accommodating and good we are! See us together?”
I know my limits and while it is true that I sometimes push them, I still know the “safe range” in which my limits sit. If I tell you I can do something, I can and I will.
The above mentioned incidents occurred with two people I consider friends. I have known them for many years and while my disease progression was sudden for them, until lately, neither my mobility nor my crutches have caused an issue. I do still believe wholeheartedly that they are good people, but at the end of the day, I’m tired of their words making me feel like I’m being forced to take a backseat.
If you are concerned about me, tell me specifically what your concerns are and I will address them. I have no issue with someone walking with me if my mobility is their main concern, but do not ever make me feel like less of a human being because I need the help of an adaptive device to walk.
No matter what your disability is, visible, hidden or neurodivergent, there are plenty of things you can do, physically and mentally.
I say this in a very literal sense: stand with me, stand next to me or get out of my way. I have no time for you to impose restrictions on me.