Definition of disability
The above definition comes from the Merriam-Webster dictionary. I must admit that I find this very interesting having been referred to as disabled or handicapped (having a condition that markedly restricts one’s ability to function physically, mentally, or socially.) at certain times in my life.
I never felt defined by this definition, despite being born with a congenital birth defect to my right arm. I have always felt that this was a label which others would assign to me, assuming that because of my appearance, I must have limited abilities.
Do we not all face limitations despite how we might look? Why must we label one another? The only time that I feel “different” is when others judge me and decide what I can or cannot do before they even speak with me.
YOU RIDE A MOTORCYCLE???????
I have met many within and outside of the motorcycle community who are intrigued by how I ride. Just recently, I pulled into a Tim Horton’s outside of Leamington where a fellow motorcycle rider approached me to ask if my bike was automatic. I must admit that I welcome any opportunity to share how I ride. He and I had a great discussion about my modifications, both of us smiling while we chatted. It was a great conversation which made a fantastic day even better.
I never mind being asked how I do anything – it is the approach which can irritate me. The words “how can you ride a bike” can be said in so many different ways and tones. If asked how I do so with an emphasis on the word “you”, as in “how do you ride a bike?”, I would immediately feel that the person posing the question has decided that I should not be doing so.
When I was a child, people – children and adults alike, would often stare or glance at me as they passed me by. I always found that other children required little explanation before accepting me. It was the adults who needed convincing. To this day, I still feel adult eyes on me every now and then. I can almost hear them trying to figure out how I am able to exist. At times like those, I often want to say “I play guitar and ride a motorcycle – what do you do?”
However, instead I smile.
As an example, one day I was in the locker room at my local gym preparing for my workout. Since I listen to music using my cell phone, part of my preparation includes putting a phone armband on my right arm. While tightening the velcro strap, I often hold the armband in place with my teeth. While it might look like I need assistance, I don’t.
Having said that, I appreciate when someone offers help however would also appreciate someone understanding that no means no.
On this particular day, a woman did approach me and asked if she could be of assistance. She was very kind and I knew that her intentions were good. I replied that I was fine and thanked her for her offer. Despite my response, she continued to approach me with arms outstretched saying that she understood my challenge since someone in her family had similar issues.
My inside voice was going wild while my outside voice again thanked her for her offer but that I truly was fine.
It is for reasons such as these that it is important for me to share my story of how a glance, a stare or an approach can make someone feel, even if they have full confidence in their abilities.
Forming an opinion about someone else without even knowing them can be hurtful. Even offering assistance, while meaning well, can offend if the person offering oversteps their bounds.
Do not judge – do not label. Ask me – know me.
While I understand that it might be difficult for others to understand how I accomplish the things that I do, it is important that I am treated no differently than anyone else and that I am thought of in the same way as others.
The definition of disability does not apply to me.