One day, I found myself dating a girl who used a wheelchair. As soon as we started getting to know each other, we both noticed that there was an instant connection between the two of us – one born out of empathy and understanding.
In those first few moments together, my date challenged me to push her around in her chair, so I could see what it was like to navigate life from her perspective. It taught me about never underestimating anyone just because they happen to use a different kind of mobility aid than you do – something that really affected me when I didn’t need one at all anymore; seeing firsthand how complex daily tasks can be when you’re living with limitations utterly alien from my own.
But eventually – without even realizing it – our shared experiences became normal. Our lives were no longer about what differentiated or pulled us apart but rather what brought us closer together: intense understanding mixed with love for others who may share similar challenges in their lives.
Times and stories change – we no longer go out, but I still have a wheelchair. When I can, I like to compare it to others who have wheelchairs and sit atop one while continuing to understand, in part, the difficulties of those who use one every day. With these challenges under my belt, it feels good to know that these physical tasks are within my power now – even if they are subtly different. To some degree, this is an unending contest between you and your disability; sometimes frustrating or rewarding when you find yourself succeeding again despite limitations.
I know, to many this may seem strange: in the face of diversity, most prefer to turn away and say, “oh, poor thing,” I say, “ohhh… look how cool! “. And because of this attitude of mine, I discover a world of people who have literally bewitched me. Some will understand me without fail; others won’t see what all the fuss is about. But when they look closely enough, they’ll see something else entirely: someone learning new hacks to accomplish everyday goals – playfully challenging herself until she succeeds again against all odds set before her. What seemed strange to some became engrossing for others; from curiosity came acceptance – from success came community!