What’s up with that?

I had the wonderful opportunity to surprise my twin sister on our bithday this past weekend. My sister is sufferring from a debilitating disease known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). You cna learn more about this disease and the fundraising efforts we have made on her behalf at: www.faithforfern.com However, that is not the reason for this blog post.

I found it incredibly interesting to watch how strangers cope with disabled individuals. During our visit, we headed out to have brunch at a hotel/restaurant in downtown Victoria, BC. Before I discuss what occurred, I should state taht my sister is in a wheelchair. Her disease limits her ability to stand loud noises as well as being banged into or bumped by others. In fact, bumping produces excrutiating pain not just an inconvenience factor.

When we turned up with our reservation, they placed our group directly in alignment with the buffet. Does this seem like a good position for someone in a wheelchair? My sister does not like to make a fuss, so she accepted the placement without complaint. What I found interesting is that the host actually never spoke to her. He spoke only to her husband when checking to see if the placement was acceptable. Now isnt it interesting that you wouldnt ask the affected individual if it was adequate? Does being in a wheelchair automatically assume that you cannot speak or hear?

While waiting for her plate to be put together by her husband at the buffet table, another patron actually banged into the wheelchair in an attempt to bypass the long line and cut in closer to the hot food. No word of apology was extended for this. In fact, when my brother-in-law headed over to indicate the problem with banging into her chair, this man looked at my brother-in-law like he had grown horns out of his head. Apparently this is not a unque phenomonon. My sister indicated a time at the airport when a young man had actually backed right up into her and fell into her lap – he then addressed only the woman he was with indicating that he had not seen her. That might have been the case, but what prevents an appropriate apology? It is as if her wheelchair prevents anyone from being able to speak to her directly.

In fact, at lunch, even the waitress failed to address her and rather asked the rest of us at the table what she would like to have for a beverage.

I found this all pretty fascinating. Are we really that uncomfortable with the idea of someone with a handicap?

Well, let me just say that my sister is a generous and gentle individual with a rare disease. She does not wish to be a burden or a bother, but she does expect to be treated with respect – as I imagine you would as well. So, when you see someone in a chair, do not assume they are incapable of communicating. Talk to them – they may surprise you with their wit, politeness and acceptance of your apologies!