What Do You See?
What do you see when you look at me?
Don’t you see just how much more there is to me?
I am more than just the specialized equipment I use or the way I walk or talk.
I am a person with thoughts, feelings, dreams and aspirations.
I am an individual with plans and dreams for my own life.
I am well aware of what I can and cannot do.
I refuse to be categorized or stifled by what others think of me.
I will not be shoved into a box that others constantly try to put me in because they think it’s where I fit.
I will not be told to sit in a corner and quietly wait.
I know my strengths and my weaknesses, my dreams and sorrows.
I know what I am capable of and what I am not.
I will not sit idly by and watch life pass me by, watch all I want slip through my fingers.
I will not sit quietly and politely listen to others who put me down.
I will decide my own future.
I am on the outside looking in.
I am in your schools, your workplaces, and your coffee shops.
I am everywhere, and yet you do not see me. You are blind to me.
I speak, and yet you do not hear me.
It is like I am in a cave, dark and dank crying out for someone, anyone to hear me, to help me. But, time and time again, nothing happens.
I am looked at as weak when I am strong.
I am seen as a poor misguided soul when I know exactly where I am going.
I am pitied though pity infuriates me.
I am an individual living with a disability but I refuse to let disability define me!
I am more than what you see.
Take another look and you’ll find I am not asking for much, I am only asking for the same respect that you are offered, and indeed given unconditionally by those around you.
I am only asking for my thoughts and feelings to be given as much attention and regard as yours are.
I am asking to be treated as a human being, not as a disease to be cured or a list of symptoms to be treated.
Nor do I want to be treated as something that is broken and needs to be fixed.
All I want is for you to take the time to listen and to truly hear me.
Listen to my thoughts, my worries; my fears and don’t judge me. Just listen.
It may not seem that important to you, but it would mean the world to me.
All I ask is that you treat me with the same regard you would treat anybody else regardless of race, religion, creed or colour; regardless of whether or not there was ‘something wrong with them.’
It is not disease and disability that creates divides and disdain, not these which divide people and allow hatred, misinformation, prejudice and stereotypes to flourish.
It is how we deal with such things that says much more about who we are as individuals and as a society than our own words ever could.
So next time you see an individual with a disability on the street or in the local coffee shop, or wherever, stop and think about how you would want to be treated.
Chances are; all that individual is looking for is what we all want, acceptance and above all, to be treated as an equal.