R’s new wheelchair has arrived. R’s colour choices (pink and orange) turned out great and the chair looks very cute. R is very pleased with it.
R’s recent poor run of health has meant that I have been using the chair perhaps more than I would have expected. And I have made a curious discovery. People are much nicer to us with R in the chair than than they were before.
Funnily enough, by and large, I hadn’t really noticed that people weren’t always being nice. It’s true that the week before the wheelchair arrived, I was out with R in her buggy, when a man stopped me to tell me that she was far too big to be in one. It’s also true that there were always those people who tutted and stared when R was being noisy in public places.
But most people weren’t like that. It’s just that, incredible as it seems, they apparently didn’t recognise R’s disability. Introduce a wheelchair and people smile and chat to R, they hold open doors and offer help. Introduce a wheelchair and there are no raised eyebrows when we park in a disabled parking space or use the disabled toilets. It’s almost like the wheelchair is needed to validate R’s disability.
I met a couple of friends, M and J, in the supermarket cafe right next to R’s school before I picked her up this afternoon. I discussed this shift in behaviour with my friends (who, like me, are mums to daughters with disabilities). “People are less aware of the presentation of disability than they should be. Disability just isn’t as visible in the community as it should be.” As I ranted, J watched a scene play out behind me. A woman entered the cafe with a small boy. The boy was agitated and crying when he arrived. The woman set about calming him down and then together they quietly ate a snack. On the table the woman had set up a card. The card said that they were from the nursery attached to R’s school, that this was a “social snack time” and that if anyone wanted to ask about what they were doing they could. And no-one in the cafe fussed and no-one in the cafe tutted. What a brilliant way to raise awareness.