Editor’s Note: Welcome to day four and the final unveiling of a week of debuting some new features on So about what I said…! Today, friends, like I did with Mind of a Man, it’s now the women’s turn to have their say in A Woman’s Word. First up is my lovely and insightful blog friend, Amanda. We’re so alike in so many ways, so I couldn’t resist getting her thoughts on some of the disability issues some people give me crazy looks for even expressing. See what she had to say!
If you’d like to submit your own topic for this feature (women only, remember; men, you’ve got your own column, so don’t get to feeling too inferior), feel free to email me at mellow1422 [at] aol [dot] com.
What do you enjoy the most about being a woman with a physical disability?
I enjoy giving other people my energy. With dealing with depression issues, it is a must that I go places on a daily basis. I like meeting people on the buses, in stores and going out to eat. There are many people who don’t really understand that a person with a physical disability can be happy in that role. There are a few instances where the disability wears off and the non-disabled woman can be seen. One is when I exercise on the floor. I remember as a child watching a group of swimmers dancng in a line. I layed on the floor and pretended to be one of the women. I still do that to this day. The second is through reading. When we read, authors give us a clear vision into the imaginary world. We are able to be non-disabled wives and mothers who juggle everything. The last is through writing. What better way to open up to our world than to write?
How do you view our society’s outlook on disabilities in the media? How can we change the view to gain full acceptance?
My view on our society is that this world was not made for people with physical disability to begin with. There have been jokes about our “ancestors” being locked in closets. One of my favorite movies is “The Secret Garden.” In the movie, there is a boy whose father keeps him hidden in a bedroom. The mother has passed on. There is no life whatsoever in that house. Our society has made disabilities out to be a dark, dreary room. Who deserves that life? I remember reading Julie Andrews’ book “Mandy” years ago. Instead of Mandy living in a plain cottage, varieties of flowers were planted outside. That’s the goal of what each one of us hopes to convey to our society. Personally, I would rather have a lively feeling internally and externally.
Changing other people’s viewpoints happens through advocacy. Those of us who are unable to speak advocate through writing articles and letters to educate. I can not begin to tell you how uncomfortable it is to be around someone who gives off vibes of having a disliking a person with a disability. Some people do not care to understand about our lives. There are many people who do feel that we should not be around at public events. What alleviates that rejection feeling is having small children coming up to us with wheelchair fascinations. The child’s eyes shine as they look at our chairs in awe amazement. A child’s curiosity makes up for every ounce of heartache caused by society.
How do you view yourself? Do you see your disability in the mirror?
That depends each day. The battle of self-acceptance is a daily fight. When I look in the mirror, I see my face. My chair is not visible, only the handles. I see the woman who I lost to suicide when I was a child. I see that woman’s love of the law staring back at me. I see this lovely lady deep inside of me telling me to keep her wholesome memory alive and share my happiness with everyone I meet. I see the only picture I remember of this woman as her arms lifting me up as a child. This woman gave me so many dreams.
I do see the disability in the mirror at times and away from the mirror. There are many times when I would love to move to a log cabin and be a female hermit. The drawbacks to that life would be the same as a suicide. I have some negative self-images. I have battled with weight issues. I used to cope with stress through eating heavily. These days I eat two meals a day pretty much. I drink a shake at noon, eat a health chocolate bar mid-afternoon, and then eat something light around seven or eight. You could say I am trying to be like a non-disabled woman through physical appearances.
What do you believe men do not understand about a woman who is physically disabled? How can we change a man’s perception of us?
I don’t think men understand that women with physical disability need more attention than most women. When a non-disabled man decides to get into a relationship with us, he needs to realize that there will be sacrifices. He needs to have patience. There will be things we may not be physically able to do. Dates of skiing, skating, and learning how to do the waltz are not on the list of enjoyable activities. If we mention something in the past and he remembers through that information through his actions, then that Is the perfect man.
As much as we want a man to change and date us that will not realistically happen. I personally do not want to have a boyfriend whose perception I need to change on my disability. A man either accepts the disability and me, or I don’t need him in my life. I would wonder about problems that may arise if I dated someone whose perception I needed to change at first.. I feel more comfortable around men who have had a friend or family member who has been disabled, or better yet, that guy is disabled. I am finding out that men from other countries are very accepting of women in wheelchairs.
[Photos via Audrey Hepburn Complex]