I have thankfully never been treated differently because of not being able to walk. I'm accepted, disability and all. I say that however with an asterisk attached.
Although I am accepted and rather adored by my family, friends, coworkers and peers (Thank you very much!), I have often felt, more so in the working world, that I have to prove myself capable of my career position.
When people meet me initially over the phone or contact me through email, I don't default to saying, "Oh, and by the way, I can't walk." That's irrelevant to my capabilities on the job. Would you think to say something about yourself that is irrelevant to your job? I wear glasses for distance too, as so many do; you wouldn't think to say that right? So why would I bring up that I don't walk unless a special accommodation needed to be made?
I always love it when I have had that over the phone/email introduction and finally get to meet the person face-to-face. They will be waiting at the front desk, looking for me to walk up and then it happens,
"Hi ____. I'm Jamie. It's so nice to finally meet you. . ."
For the first few seconds there is the look of slight shock on their face that they try to keep from being too obvious. If I were a mind reader I think I would see something like, "Wow, wasn't expecting she'd be in a wheelchair. . ." floating around in their head.
Let's face it, people make assumptions about those with disabilities. Living life and thriving with a physical disability, I've definitely caught people off guard more than a few times. I have to admit that I almost get excited when I do see the initial "shock" on their face melt away because I have overcome a potential barrier with them.
I will say this, I will never let myself miss out on an experience because of someone else's pre-conceived notion of a person in a wheelchair. I hope I become that example to those around me that anything is possible with determination, faith, hard work and an open mind.
To be perfectly honest, when I was in high school, I was VERY uncomfortable being around others in wheelchairs. I didn't want to be labeled one of "those people." I didn't want the misconceptions I had heard so many times about people in wheelchairs (There must be a mental disability, they are needy, etc) to be labeled on me. So I stayed away from "wheelchair people" at all costs.
I know, shame on me! One of my very best friends in high school used a wheelchair part time, and we both were stubborn for the same reason. . .didn't want to be labeled.
The lesson here is that I needed to look deep in my own heart. I was only hurting myself for not being more open minded. I could have missed out on an amazing friendship from my own stubborn ways. Looking at the big picture, I was doing what I work so hard each day to not let happen to me.
What I think it boils down to is a person's comfort level. If you can make someone comfortable with your differences, no matter how big or small, you are very likely to let someone into your life that you find you just can't live without.
On another note, I was surfing the web for some graphics and saw this lovely award. It instantly made me think of my friend Bonnie over at Glam Kitten's Litter Box. Her blog is fabulous and funny and inspirational and sassy and one of my absolute favorite daily reads. I love her and I know you will too! So make sure to check her out here!