Friday, September 26, 2008

People are always staring at me- Is it my disability or my good looks?

Have you ever noticed that when you are in a wheelchair, people just stop and stare? I always notice people staring at me when I am taking apart my wheelchair and putting it in my car. I also notice it too when I am out in public places. I don’t always notice the looks as much in public because they are looking down at me, and I don’t have eye contact with them, since I sit low in my wheelchair. When people do stare at me, in my head I make a joke that they are just staring because I am so good looking, but I know it is just curiosity. For me it is just a part of my life to put my wheelchair in and out of the car between 6-10 times a day, and when people stare, I do think what are they staring at? I try to be understanding about it because people don’t see someone taking apart a wheelchair and putting it in a car that often. It is probably interesting to watch, and it shows them people in wheelchairs do get out there and live life, just in a different way.

I always try to be nice to people when it comes to educating the public about disability issues, but I am only human and don’t want to be stared at all the time. I feel like I am putting on a show and when someone looks at me too long I feel like saying something to them. For example, “Take a picture, it will last longer!” Or, “Hey, you’ve been staring at me long enough do you want my phone number?”

I think that people with disabilities/wheelchair users can all relate to being stared at to some extent and that it truly can test our individual patience. I try very hard to be polite and just pretend I don’t know I am being stared at. Although, I am hoping one day if it is just my good looks, maybe I will get a date out of it.

To everyone that hates to be stared at here is my advice:
1) Just try to not acknowledge it is happening.
2) Try to be polite and remember patience.
3) If it does bother you- try not to get angry, just stare back at them for a minute.
4) Also, remember that it is mostly just human curiosity.

I can remember when I was first injured, it was hard to get used to people staring at me. I used to have really low self esteem about my body image and how I looked in a wheelchair. Fast forward 15 years later and I am okay when people stare, but it comes from many years of learning to be patient.

Tammy Wilber
~ To not Caring, about Staring ~.

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