I was waiting for my family in a busy car park when a posh vehicle pulled up not very far away from me. It was an admirable car but it was not just its price tag that attracted my attention. It was the decision of the driver to park on a disabled space that made me stop and watch. I expected him to come out on a wheelchair or on crutches but the man walked quite normal towards the entrance.
It was one of those moments that I wished I was a policeman. I don’t need to tell you that he was a perfectly healthy man. The only problem with him was a deranged attitude that many selfish people are guilty of. A wicked thought did pass my mind though. I resisted the temptation of slashing a couple of his expensive tyres just to send a clear message. There was nothing I could do but stay calm and wait for my family to turn up.
That night, as I recalled the incident, I thought such people don’t care a hoot about disabled people. Thinking about it now casts my thoughts to a relative who lost the use of his limbs after a sudden stroke. It might sound cruel but his own family have given up on him. He still has a lot to give though not in the same way he used to.
The worst that could happen to people in his situation is to think that life has suddenly decided to turn its back on them. To them, time stands still and every passing day is a carbon copy of the previous one where personal anguish rules all the time. When one becomes invalid, many of the decisions they would have made are taken by people who look after them. Just like the man in that parking lot, disabled people get used to see their feelings trampled down. It is not a pleasant feeling but it is the one that they learn to accept.
It is very sad to see a once able person imprisoned in a shell of self-pity. It is not a physical prison but a mental one when the mind shuts out everything. We all grow up to taste just one freedom, the one we learned by taking that first step that would lead us to full independence.
I don’t want to contradict myself but disabled people are never invalid. They may not be able to do most physical activities but they are never incompetent. This is the first thing that comes to our mind when we see a person on a wheelchair. The expression in our faces says it all. We think, “poor fellow, I hope this does not happen to me.”
The message is often transmitted and decoded by the disabled person. They start to retreat inward and feel useless. An unseen and imagined world is the only place where they can have their own rules and in their own terms. They lose the will to survive on their own. Why? Simply because we choose to treat them as a useless. That way, we banish them from the physical world.
Disabled people don’t need our sympathy but our understanding. If they don’t get that then they become difficult and may never come to terms with their disability. We hold the key of their peace of mind. We owe them that much because most decisions that matter now are taken by people who look after them. That hurts a lot because the future is uncertain and the road to their recovery is nowhere near.