To the People Who React to My Disability With ‘I’m Sorry’

I often wonder why people are sorry for me being blind. Depending on my mood and who I am talking to I have already asked them why they are sorry. I have asked if they had anything to do with making me blind and when they say no then I ask then why are you sorry?

Has this happened to you and how have you handled it?

Apparently, the first time I sent this the message was blank, so here we go
again.

To the People Who React to My Disability With ‘I’m Sorry’
September 21, 2015
By Karin Hitselberger

Often people approach me and ask the about my chair. Sometimes it’s a little
awkward, but when they approach it the right way, and I decide to answer,
the conversation usually goes a something like this:

Person: "So if you don’t mind, may I ask why you’re in a wheelchair?"

Me: "I have cerebral palsy. I was born this way, it’s just how I am, I have
always been in a wheelchair."

Person: "Oh! I’m so sorry! That must suck. I didn’t know."

Me: "That’s OK, don’t be sorry, I’m not. It’s just part of who I am."

Person: "I can’t even imagine. It must just be so awful. You’re so brave!"

Me: (Screams internally.) "I’m really not brave, I’m just a person. Have a
nice day."

The truth is, I can’t stand these conversations. I can’t stand that people
think they are being nice by apologizing for my very existence. The truth
is,
my life may be different from the average, but it’s nothing to be sorry for.
When you apologize for my identity, you are reinforcing the idea that who
I am, who I was born to be is anything but desirable. When you apologize for
my identity, you are signaling to me that I should feel bad about it too,
and for a long time I did.

For a long time, my disability and my wheelchair were everything that was
wrong with me. These things were everything that made me different. These
things
were everything that separated me from what was normal, and I was too young
and too caught up in our current cultural narrative to see the truth. For
years
I wished that I could be anything but who I was. For years I wished I could
be normal the way our society defines it, just so people would stop staring.
For years I believed I was the problem, and if I could just be different
everything else would be, too. For years I believed the lie that I was
something
to be sorry for.

From an outsider perspective it’s easy to look at disability and think
that’s something to be sorry for, but that’s not the truth. Who I am today,
the
girl people call brave and smart and strong-willed and a million other
things, I am because of my disability, not in spite of it. My dreams, my
passions,
my purpose and my drive are a direct result of who I am, not a shocking
anomaly.

When you apologize for my wheelchair, my disability, you apologize for the
person I’ve become. When you apologize for my wheelchair, you make it seem
like
I’m the problem, like who I am is so bad that I deserve an apology for just
having to live. My wheelchair is part of who I am, as is my disability, and
I am proud of them. They have helped to define me and shape the way I see
the world. They have given me some of my best friends and greatest life
goals.

These things are no longer what separates me from others, but rather are
what has given me some of the people I love the most, who understand me and
love
me back not in spite of who I am, but precisely because of it. To me, this
is amazing, and certainly nothing to be sorry for.

If you want to be sorry for something, apologize for discrimination.
Apologize for the fact that there are still places in this country I cannot
go. Apologize
for the fact that people treat me differently just because I roll instead of
walk. Apologize for the fact that in a prestigious college interview, I was
told I wouldn’t like the school because "there are not many people like you
there."

If you want to apologize for something, apologize for inequality. Apologize
for the stunning lack of accessible housing and accessible transportation.
Apologize for the ridiculously high unemployment rate in the disability
community. Apologize for staring. Apologize for treating me like a little
girl
even though I’m a 23-year-old woman. Apologize for stereotypes and
stigmatization.

If you want to apologize for something, apologize for all those things,
because all of those things are worth being sorry about. But don’t apologize
for
my identity. Don’t apologize for who I am. Don’t apologize for my
wheelchair. It allows me to live the amazing life that I have. Don’t
apologize for what
makes me different. I’m not ashamed of it, and I’m not sorry. You shouldn’t
be either.

Reproduced from
http://themighty.com/2015/09/to-the-people-who-react-to-my-disability-with-i
m-sorry/

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