The Niagara News is the community newspaper of Niagara College located in Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada. It is created and produced by the students of the Niagara College Journalism program.
The doors slid open and the two women inside paused in their conversation.
As I stepped into the elevator, the expected awkward silence began and I couldn’t help but notice their critical stare.
No, I wasn’t in a wheelchair, I wasn’t using crutches, I wasn’t even limping that day. The rods and pins in my legs didn’t seem to mind the weather that morning. All the bones that had been smashed in the past were feeling OK today.
When my company left the elevator, I couldn’t help but hear them comment on my “lack of disability.” I felt embarrassed and just a bit insulted. I had always seen my ability to walk again after a horrible car accident as a great achievement, even though I had limitations. I had struggled through my first year of college, happy to have courses mostly on the main floors. This term, trekking three flights of stairs tested my determination to the max, and I finally had to admit defeat and search for my saviour, the elevator.
When I encountered this quiet hostility, I struggled to understand why I was being judged so harshly.
Not everyone has an issue that is easily seen. I was now among those who consider their issues (I hate using the word disabilities) invisible. We are the ones who struggle unrecognized because of pride, determination and even hope. We refuse to give in; we refuse to surrender to the stigma of having a disability.
How unfair is it to judge someone by the way he or she looks? Or by what is lacking? Hmm, where have I heard this before? It’s a pity that I would have to wonder that in a college setting.
When I feel less achy and want to try my luck, I’ll take the stairs, and I will conquer them. I still go to the gym to try the elliptical machine for 20 to 30 minutes. It keeps my legs and body fit and keeps them from getting stiff.
And you know what? I can walk after being told I would never be able to again, so I will again take that elevator with pride, and I will enjoy the ride.