What exactly is independence?
I often hear people talking about the need to be ‘independent’. What does that mean to you? According to Webster’s dictionary: “ Independent is to be free from the influence, control, or determination of another, relying only on one’s self or one’s own abilities and judgments; a person who is self-sufficient in thinking and action”. I submit to you that no one is truly independent. In this very small world of ours we all depend on each other for our very survival. Our actual independence is merely how we approach each day and each situation that we encounter. If we are capable of acting and reacting on our own initiative then we can truly say we are independent.
Independence is a frame of mind as much as it is a physical manifestation. Challenges may be different for each of us but we all face them. Now for a moment place yourself in a wheelchair.
Do you ever feel as if you should apologize for being in a wheelchair? Why? What have you done that is wrong? Okay, if you purposely drove over someone’s foot you should apologize. That is actually considered a bad thing. Unless of course they were being a jerk . . no, that still is not a good enough excuse. Running over toes in a wheelchair is not considered polite.
I sometimes feel that I should apologize for taking up space in a hallway or on a sidewalk, but I don’t. I may joke with the people around me about running over their feet but it is just to ease any concerns. I know there are those who think all people with disabilities are the same. But we are just as varied and as individual as able-bodied people are. I know there is some fear or concern about saying the wrong thing and offending people with disabilities. I almost feel it is my duty to alleviate that concern. In a perfect world people would judge me as a person first and disregard the wheelchair. I just take my front row seat with me wherever I go. In many ways I am pushy. I refuse to allow people to treat me like a cripple. Perhaps that is a lesson for everyone. If you act like a victim you will become a victim. I may have a disability but I am not crippled.