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Only human

Samantha Gervais

Assistant Opinions Editor

Photo via alexandre saraiva carniato/Pexels

Here I come to you, RIC student body, with another article about disability advocacy. These article ideas seem to come to me at random times and when inspiration hits, it’s always best to pop a squat and let that inspiration out.

For those who don’t know, I use a cane to walk around campus. I try my best to make it a fun cane so it’s not just a dull, boring thing to look at and carry around. I’m still in my 20s and just because I feel like an old woman doesn’t mean I have to, after all. I’ve started to even get in the habit of getting different canes so I can decide which cane I want to use for different days. In a weird way, it’s like deciding what pair of socks you want to wear.

On this particular day, though, I went to my orthopedic doctor and got some news I wasn’t too particularly pleased with, so it goes without saying that my mood was a little down. I try my best to keep my mood up, since I know I’ll feel worse if I just stew on bad news. I give myself time to grieve bad news and be upset, but I try to find the light in all the bad. I found myself struggling to keep the frustration bottled up, though.

As I was packing my bag, to leave class, I found myself fixated on having to make sure my cane didn’t fall every 3 seconds, all my belongings were in the right places, I didn’t spill my drink, make sure I didn’t smack anyone with my cane by accident and make sure I didn’t move the wrong way and trip over my seat. Okay, so that’s not awful, it’s just making sure I have all my ducks in a row.

After I got out, I went to the bookstore and had to venture off to Craig-Lee Hall. I found myself growing much more tired. In my own opinion, I think able-bodied people underestimate how much physical strength walking with a cane really takes. Those things take a lot more physical energy than you think. Leaning most of your weight into the cane so that one leg isn’t getting as much pressure feels like an upper body workout. At least by the middle of the Quad, I felt like I already needed a break from walking. My legs shook and I felt like sitting down, but due to the fact it was cold, I knew I would just make myself more uncomfortable. Now, what did I do? I kept going.

This is where I get scolded by friends and family. I never know when to stop. I am stubborn by nature.

Once I got to Craig-Lee, the stairs felt like climbing a mountain. Yes, I know there are the ramps to go up, though sometimes those even feel worse. Sometimes I had to pick the lesser of two evils and I decided that the two little steps were going to be my nemesis this Monday afternoon. Boy, I was right. They were my number one enemy.

Naturally, the handicapped button leading into Craig-Lee didn’t work and knowing I had people behind me made me extraordinarily anxious. “Just open the door, no one wants to wait,” is all I could hear myself saying.

Though, let me rewind to the point of me walking in the Quad and wanting to sit down. A thought struck me when I was getting tired and wanted to sit.

There were only a few students around and I was in the center of the Quad, adjusting my bag and my grip on my cane, and whatever students were there seemed to look in my general direction.

The speed in which the spotlight can move onto disabled individuals in an instant. It can quickly be put on us when there is something “abnormal” or “something you don’t see every day” in society. Then, the spotlight is off us, to some, when it comes to rights, advocacy and even getting basic help.

However, I’d like to not only give a shout out to the few students who really did brighten the day and restore my faith in humanity when they helped me out of my first building, but also the gentleman I took the elevator with that asked how I was doing and was overall a good human being. Little things like this really can brighten someone’s day, and I really needed it that day.

My overall point is even though chronic illness and disabled people may look like we’re carrying our burdens and hardships well, it’s not always what it looks like. We’ve masterfully planned how to wear this face every day. These days are tiring, draining and isolating.

Remember to be kind to one another. The world needs more kindness and love. We don’t know each other’s true struggles.


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