Bump It

I was walking through a crowded subway station trying to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. People were everywhere and with similar intentions. It was difficult to avoid bouncing in to one another and no one seemed to be taking it personally. No one that is, until it was me they were bumping in to.

Usually a public anonymous bump-in-to merits a quick “sorry” and a continuous of the day. It’s not a big deal and generally unintended bumps are just that – unintended bumps. So why then do strangers in the crowd don saclothe and ashes to atone for bumping in to me? Why do they mumble apologies wrapped in not-seeing-me’s?

I stopped someone once to ask them these questions, albeit less poetically. They admitted that they felt bad because I was blind and they should have seen me. I didn’t know what to say other than “how does that make sense?” and they left. But really, how does that make sense? How does having a PWD in the vincinity force super aware powers and hyper-vigilance on able bodies?

It’s not that I don’t dig people wanting to not step on me. I like not being touched by strangers and apologizing for bump-byes is a social courtesy. But that should be a given regardless of disability status. When PWD are out in the world traveling and doing independantly, why on earth treat them like fragile pieces of glass?

Maybe because that would require treating people with disabilities like people instead of special projects or toxic waste….?

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2 responses to “Bump It

  1. As an able-bodied person, I suspect I have been guilty of this. Then again, I tend to get profusely apologetic whenever I bump into ANYONE (though I notice, more and more, than when people bump into me I’m the only one who says “excuse me”). My immediate response to this post was to think to myself: “I feel especially concerned/careful of disabled people in a crowd because they’re already at a disadvantage in maneuvering the space; the crush of people makes it worse. Me bumping into them doubles the worseness.” This may be a patronizing attitude – I wouldn’t doubt if it is – but I think I see it as akin to when I see a pregnant woman pushing a stroller, or a person carrying many bags and boxes, or someone similarly disadvantaged, trying to navigate a crowded area. Those of us who *aren’t* burdened or disadvantaged ought to pay a smidge of extra courtesy to those who are.

    Or maybe not?

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  2. I think the problem is in default-viewing PWD as burdened or disadvantaged. Those terms disempower and relegate the individual to a perception of what it must be like to *be* disabled.

    Rather, showing common courtesy as you would to anyone else is empowering – it lets the PWD be human.

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