Close your eyes for a moment and picture a disabled person. Keep that image in mind.
What does she look like?
How does she behave?
What can she do?
What can’t she do?
What does she need help with?
Now, tell me if these descriptions match the picture in your imagination:
A woman and her son ride their bikes in their neighborhood.
A woman spends 30 minutes in her garden, weeding, pruning her bougainvillea vine, re-arranging large pots, and then sweeping up the mess she made on the sidewalk.
A woman goes for a leisurely walk in her neighborhood, bending over to smell a light pink rose, stopping to admire a butterfly that is perched on a leaf.
A woman sees her ninety-year-old neighbor arrive home in an Uber. Her neighbor struggles to hang the grocery bags from her walker. The woman goes across the street, and carries the bags for her neighbor, helps her neighbor into her house, and brings each bag into her neighbor’s kitchen.
What if I told you the woman above was me. And what if I told you that according to the state of California, I am also a disabled woman. Do my actions match the mental image you had?
Probably not. Most people have a very limited idea of what a disabled person looks like. I know I used to.
And remember, just because you can’t see someone’s pain, doesn’t mean they aren’t hurting.