Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Where are your parents?
"Where are your parents?"
"Who did you come here with?"
I hear these questions a lot. Whenever I go somewhere by myself or with a friend on wheels, someone is concerned for our "safety" and feels the need to ask where my caregiver is.
I know I may look younger than I actually am, but I think this happens because I get around on a wheelchair and a lot of people can't even imagine that a girl on a wheelchair can live a normal life and do stuff on her own.
My trip to the amusement park a few months ago offers a good example:
Lisa and I took her car and went to this amusement park. Because we both use wheelchairs, we could get free tickets. I went to the ticket office and asked for two tickets for chair users. Guess what I got? A wheelchair ticket and a caregiver ticket. Why? It seems like we can't go anywhere without some kind of assistance.
When we got in, we wanted to get on one of the rides and we were told we could not ride together because each of us needed to have a "caregiver" by her side. We just asked someone who was standing in line if they wanted to ride with us. Now tell me what the difference is? We did not need any help and I don't understand why I can't sit with my friend. Why is it better that I sit with a stranger who can walk? We don't need our legs on that ride and if it gets stuck in the air no one else will be able to walk away.
Later, I wanted to try another ride. Lisa didn't like it so she waited for me outside. My conversation with the park employee went pretty much like this:
Me: Hi, can I get on this ride?
Him: Who are you with?
Me: No one.
Me: I am an adult and I am on my own.
Him: Who did you come here with?
Me: My friend, she is also on a wheelchair.
Him: Where are your parents?
Me: At home, in Italy. (we were in Germany)
Him: So how did you get here?
Me: With the car. (I was starting to lose my patience with the guy)
Him: How could you come in a car on your own? You can't drive.
Me: (at this point I was mad and starting to raise my voice) Yes we can! You know, hand controls? Now can I get on this ride???
I am sick of people assuming we can not be independent just because we can't walk.
I want to be treated like an adult and I want to be respected.
If I can't walk it doesn't mean I can't enjoy a day at the amusement park with my friend just like anyone else. With or without chair, we are adults and we can do stuff on our own.