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When a Woman Saw My Wheelchair and Asked, 'What Did You Do to Yourself?'

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My very first Best Buddies Friendship Walk was OK for the first portion of the event. It was February 20 2016 — 16 days after I had received a major surgery that fixed the chronic kneecap problems I’d had from my fifth-grade year till the middle of the second semester of my junior year of high school.

Best Buddies is an organization that helps  students and young adults who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. I’ve had been an active member of the ambassador training sessions and events like Time to Shine, an art and music talent show during the summer.

However this wasn’t my favorite event to take part in. Because of having the surgery and the fact that I have spastic hemiplegia cerebral palsy, I was having trouble getting around in my wheelchair because of the bulky cast on my left leg. My parents took turns pushing me around, and I was feeling pretty neutral about this experience as we started the walk.

A woman who noticed I was in a wheelchair looked at my cast and asked, “What did you do to yourself?”

I wanted to slap her in the face and gave a glare as to say WTF? I didn’t do anything to myself.

My parents understood my reaction and explained my situation. This experience has become one of the biggest reasons I hate it when people assume things about me.

If I am to give you the same respect I would give other people, please do the same to me. This woman’s question was so poorly worded. People need to know the way they ask their questions could have negative or positive results. It’s all in the wording.

As a result of this incident, I had convinced myself not to plan to participate in this year’s Friendship Walk. However, thanks to a friend I met through Best Buddies I did change my mind. He told me to see the positive side of attending. They needed volunteers to hold up poster boards that had letters that spelled out “inclusion” at the end of the walk and I decided I could help with doing that, as walking long distances is taxing on my energy. In the end, the reason I ultimately did not attend is because I had conflicting activities that day.

Never underestimate the capabilities of a person who has cerebral palsy, and take the time to learn about what it’s like for them. I’m going to take part in my second Best Buddies Friendship Walk, and I am proud to be an Ambassador of Best Buddies Arizona and hope one day the message of respect shines through.

It’s about time we break the negative stigmas ignorant people slap on us as if we were inferior human beings. It may be the one-year anniversary of when I received the major surgery that gave me back my ability to walk without chronic kneecap instability, but I want to help break the stigmas that leave people pitying us. Put yourself in the shoes of a person who has any disability, and change both your own and other people’s perspective of people with disabilities.

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Thinkstock photo by Tatomm

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