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How an Amusement Park Ride Made Me Stop Apologizing for Being Disabled

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I’ve secretly been apologizing for being disabled. Trying to make excuses for us, trying to give abled people a good feeling about all they do for disabled people. But no more. I’m done.

The other day my family and I went to an amusement park. It was a great day, and I was very happy to be there. We wanted to take the little train that took us from one side to the other, so we got in the line. When we wanted to get on the train, however, we had to split up. Why? Because there was only one place for a wheelchair in the train, and other people were already sitting next to it.

I was born with one hand; the other is my “lucky fin.” My brother is in a wheelchair. So my parents took the spot with him, and my sisters and I went to the back of the train to take a seat. So much for a fun outing with my whole family. Now you might say, “Who cares? You were still with your sisters, right?” True. But I went to this park with my family. And we were split up because only one place in the train was suitable for disabled people who use a wheelchair.

Usually I wouldn’t make a fuss, but something just clicked in my brain, and I started to cry. This wasn’t the first time we got split up. The park has a rule, for every wheelchair user you can bring two supervisors (yeah, that’s really how it’s worded). So there wasn’t an attraction we could enter with all of us, and the park employees asked us to “understand.”

I used to understand. I used to make excuses, agree that it would be too much trouble to fit in my whole family of seven people. But I don’t anymore. Because every time they say that, it feels like they’re saying “It’s your problem you’re disabled, just be glad you can go with two people.” And I used to be glad that at least there was a possibility to go. But I’m getting more and more angry about it. We’re living in Holland, for crying out loud! Why is it such a problem to get disabled people in an attraction? Why is there only one seat suitable for a wheelchair? And why do you choose to only let two people sit with the wheelchair user? Splitting up families and friends is not OK.

It’s all part of a bigger issue. We’re living in an able-bodied world where we’re taught you should feel guilty for being disabled. Where you need to try your hardest not to be a problem. A world were disabled people are either an inspiration (the athletes, for instance) or a burden (the ones we pity). And my goodness, have I ever tried not to be the last one. I’m always finding my own ways to fit in, to not ask for anything, and to be as able-bodied as possible.

But no more. This world is supposed to be a place for everyone. We need to take care of each other, and we need to make sure everyone can live out their lives as equally as possible. This means a guy in a wheelchair should be able to take a roller coaster ride with his five friends, not just two “supervisors.” Get us in there with our family and friends. Just let us have the same life as you. Don’t you think we deserve that, too?

Follow this journey on Pretty Different.

Originally published: September 19, 2016
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