*Blogger’s note: I have masked the location of this incident and am not using real names because I truly believe this person meant no harm whatsoever and I want to use this story as more of an educational tool to teach others what not to do.
Also, while this post contains heavy doses of sarcasm, that has more to do with how I cope with these situations and less to do with the actual person.
As of this upload, the museum in question has reached out and offered a formal apology.
This weekend Chad and I went on a mini get-a-way. As part of our weekend, we toured a vintage 1950’s style home that has been turned into a museum. Although I was using my wheelchair, I was able to tour it because they had put on a ramp at the back of the house to accommodate wheelchairs.
After we toured the home, we began to make our way across the street and up the block to go to the next gathering of this event. All of a sudden this woman, wearing a museum badge, approached us. She was very excited to greet us and told us that they had just put the ramp in last year and she was SO glad we were there to tour the museum.
And I’m pretty sure I was the first person in a wheelchair to come through the museum.
Why? Keep reading…….
She introduced herself as one of the curators of the museum and then the conversation took a turn-Her: “I used to work in healthcare. What is your diagnosis?” Me: (Slightly flustered as people ask me all the time what is my disability, but her way of asking was a bit more unique.) “Spina Bifida,” I said.
“Oh wow!” she said. And then it happened.
My husband had been pushing my wheelchair this whole time as we were walking to the next event of the weekend. And suddenly, without asking, the curator GRABBED MY WHEELCHAIR from my husband and started PUSHING ME!!
Now, Chad and I were so shocked we didn’t say anything, and I know that probably wasn’t the best course of action, but here’s the thing: when you’ve been disabled all your life, stuff like this (normally not exactly like this) happens frequently and honestly you just have to pick your battles or you’d end up in an early grave, a victim of repeated 2nd hand social awkwardness.
So we let it go, for about half a block until Chad casually told the lady that he could take over pushing me. Her reply?
“Oh don’t worry, I used to work in healthcare, I know what I’m doing!”
Listen, Linda!–Can I call you Linda? Cool. Here are a few tips to keep in mind the next time someone in a wheelchair comes through the museum:
1. When you see a person in a wheelchair, you may approach but DO. NOT. TOUCH. The wheelchair is an extension of the person’s body and is therefore off-limits unless the person specifically asks for help.
2. Throughout our entire interaction, you mentioned several times that you used to work in health care. I’m just not sure how relevant that information was to the situation. Especially since when we came to a curb cut and you took me down backwards, I almost fell out of my chair.
Yeah. That was a fun experience.
When you have a situation like this, ask the person in the chair which direction they prefer to come down.
Also, after this incident we could only assume that when you said you worked in healthcare, you meant to say front desk or billing department of the hospital.
3. Honestly I would have still told you what my disability was even if you didn’t tell me you used to work in health care. I know others in the disabled community have a different opinion to sharing their diagnosis, but for me, I’ve always had the opinion that others will never learn if they don’t ask. I know this can be confusing, so a good way to ask is this, “Would you mind if I asked you your diagnosis?”
4. Your museum is awesome and we thoroughly enjoyed our tour. I promise you if you implement the suggestions above, it will be an enjoyable experience for all attendees.