Perhaps you have experienced this, too. One day I was with someone in a restaurant when the server took our order. It went something like this: “What will you have?” (speaking to the person I am with) Then, “What will he have?” The server mistakenly thought I could not speak for myself I guess because I had a clear disability. At first I was offended. Then instead of letting that fester, I answered the person and gave them my order.
I remember another time during a church event years ago when one of the people in the group who led the event would not even look at me as I was introducing myself. That person eventually spoke to me and shared why.
Yes, there are times when people cannot look past my wheelchair to see me. If this has happened to you, you know the feeling.
Lately I have started inviting the servers to have a seat beside me when taking the order. This helps them get to know me better, and it makes them feel more at ease if they aren’t use to someone with a disability.
Last night I was very impressed with my pastor when I went up to him and wanted to share something deeply important to me. He didn’t stand there and talk: he got on the floor and looked me in the eyes and listened. It’s not always necessary to do this. But it is a great way to communicate with someone in a wheelchair.
People will continue to make decisions based on what they see rather than who they see. I will continue to invite them to sit by me and have a conversation. That’s one of the reasons I started Roll Model Movement; to build bridges of understanding. In the words of the Christian music artist, Matthew West, “Grace Wins Every Time”.