By Steven Avila |Staff Writer|
Folks seem to have a problem with people with illnesses and disabilities, and it needs to stop.
Having been around ill people throughout a great portion of my life, I have lost count of how many times I’ve witnessed a negative attitude from people out on the street.
It makes me sick to my stomach.
Every time I’ve taken out my grandmother who happens to be in a wheelchair, I’ve watched people push past her in store aisles. They don’t move out of the way even after they see the chair and the elderly white-haired woman in it.
Some of the more disrespectful ones even shoot my grandparent a dirty look once they lay eyes on the wheelchair.
Just what is the problem?
I know there of plenty of rude people out there. The world is full of them.
Yet I can’t help but notice that I never encounter the same behaviors and looks I see when I’m pushing that wheelchair that I do while I’m alone.
There are many situations similar to my own.
In stores, on sidewalks, and even in churches, I’ve seen people on crutches being stared at, heard disabled people being snickered at and the list just goes on.
A CSUSB an alumni (who wished to remain anonymous) spoke candidly with me about the years she had to wear a back brace due to scoliosis.
“They stare,” she said of people. “Kids ask questions. People assume you can’t do anything, like at all. They ask rude questions, they make rude comments.”
Deanna Swank, high school teacher and CSUSB student, spoke about how students deal with an autistic student of hers.
“They [students] tease him in very ‘positive’ ways, like encouraging him to act or sing, because he goes all out, and they think it’s funny,” said Swank.
“It’s for their own entertainment. He doesn’t understand that it is malicious,” she concluded.
Clearly there’s a stigma around certain kinds who are handicapped or disabled.
Now there are definitely people who simply don’t know how to behave around or how to react to someone who is handicapped or disabled.
That uncertainty is at least understandable.
The line, however, gets crossed when mere misunderstanding turns into prejudice and rudeness.
According to CSUSB’s office of Services to Students with Disabilities, there are over 500 students on our campus with confirmed disabilities.
That being said, this is definitely an issue that affects our campus community.
Don’t get me wrong. I am by no means advocating going out and throwing false pity at everyone in sight.
Delving out pity is just as damaging and insulting as those outrageous stares.
What we can and should be giving out, though, is more respect and common politeness when we encounter this kind of situation.
If you see someone in a wheelchair, either pushing themselves or being pushed, be kind and move to the side so they can get by.
If you see someone talking to themselves, don’t point and laugh, and if the people you’re with do, set them straight.
That hallucinating Alzheimer’s patient? You may know what’s happening to the person’s brain but you have no idea what’s happening to his or her mind.
That wheelchair-bound man? Go a day without your legs to understand how tough it is.
That “mentally disabled” stranger? Wait until it happens to a close relative or friend and then see if it’s still something to snicker at.
The point is illnesses and disabilities aren’t a reason to act indifferent, rude or disrespectful to anyone, and we need to remember to institute respect and tolerance back into our everyday lives.