I have to tell you about an experience that I had this week.
It happened at a local shopping plaza. I was walking on a sidewalk between the grocery store and the bank. There was a woman using a motorized wheelchair in front of me and when she saw me approaching, she seemed to hesitate.
As I walked passed her, I greeted her with a friendly “hello”.
Instead of saying “hi” in return, her response was, “I’m sorry”.
“Sorry for what?” I asked.
“I didn’t know you were going straight” she replied
“What does that matter?” I remarked.
“I would have gotten out of your way,” she said.
“You have as much of a right to this sidewalk as anyone else,” I rebutted.
She looked at me, very surprised. I restated that there was no reason for her to apologize for simply, using the sidewalk. I let her know that I had a son who had a disability and that I am an advocate for the rights of all people. She was very appreciative of my understanding.
As I continued on with my day, my thoughts kept going back to my encounter with the woman. I was bothered by the fact that she felt like she had to apologize. If someone were to pass me on a sidewalk, I don’t apologize.
It makes me think about how people who have a disability often feel that they are “in the way.” Are we that inconsiderate? Have we led people to believe that it’s too much work for us to make accommodations for them? Where is our compassion?
I am reminded by what I have learned, as a parent, and as a professional. A person who has a disability is not the problem. The real issue lies with our attitude.
What can you do to change how people think?