From: Abigail Noble
Walking through a discount store is typically something one would perceive as a harmless, unassuming thing to do, or at least most would think so. However, this is not the case for someone who uses a wheelchair, an individual who smiles and waves emphatically to strangers to show excitement or happiness, or simply a person who looks a little different than a “normal” person. I work for a group home assisting adults with disabilities and I have family members with developmental disabilities and after countless trips to stores and outings within the community, I’ve seen my fair share of disgusted or sympathetic looks directed our way. And after these countless trips, I still ask myself “What are you looking at?” and have to calmly remind myself that some people are simply uneducated or just plain ignorant. But today, I’m writing to state that people with disabilities are no “different” than you or I. I’m writing to explain to you that this amazing community of people deserve the respect and courtesy any human being does.
Right now many people are probably thinking to themselves, “I don’t have a problem with these people” or “I would never laugh at these people. I just feel bad for them.” In reality, this is where the problem lies; people looking at individuals with disabilities as some alien group of people or feeling sympathy or pity towards them. Although people with disabilities have to deal with difficulties and struggles, doesn’t everyone? Instead of focusing on people with disabilities differences, let’s look at the many things that make us all similar. Imagine the excitement you feel when you see your “crush” across the room or as you watch your favorite sports team win the game. People with disabilities feel these emotions. Imagine the anger you have when you get into a fight with a close friend or as you come home from a bad day at work. People with disabilities feel these emotions. Imagine the sadness you feel after being judged by someone that knows nothing about you or when a loved one passes. People with disabilities have these feelings. And imagine the happiness you feel as you accomplish a goal you’ve been working towards your whole life or being with family and friends on the holidays. Yes, people with disabilities have these feelings too.
So the next time you are out in public and see someone with a disability, don’t point, don’t stare, don’t pity, and don’t laugh. Treat these wonderful people as you would any stranger walking by, whether that is with a friendly smile or even passing without notice as you typically would. Either way, remind yourself as you ask, “What am I looking at?” that you are looking at a human being no different than you or I. Someone that shares the same emotions and feelings that each and every one of us experience: excitement, anger, sadness, and happiness. Remember, we’re not so different after all.