Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet my nephews after a long time. Since my sister lives abroad, I don't get to see my nephews that often and it's usually during the holidays and festive occasions that I catch up with their progress. Its always a pleasure to see how they have grown. I may notice the changes more because there would be a long time gap since I last saw them.
However, I like to know what they've been up to and learn of their progress in school and life in general. While they're ware that, on a physical level, I am different, the fact that I'm a wheelchair user doesn't bother them at all. In this sense, they accept the fact they have a disabled uncle. This relieves me from having to show them that I can still live a fulfilling life. It spares me of that awkwardness I feel when I meet some people who remain convinced that I must have a miserable life!!!
Indeed, every time we meet, I can trust that adults especially and children who were never exposed to disability tend to be ill at ease when they encounter a disabled people. It appears as if they perceived a reality dominated by misconceptions that relegate our lives as constant suffering.
Another thing that I sort of enjoyed the fact that my nephews fought to drive my power chair as I prefer to use an office chair indoors. I must say that they got the hang of manoeuvring my power chair fairly quickly. Yes, as an uncle, I advised them to be careful and keep the speed on the lowest setting. On the other hand, I didn't want to be too strict and prohibit them from using it. Of course, a wheelchair isn't, strictly speaking, a toy but it's neither untouchable or lacking fun in its use!
Rather, it's a source of empowerment and a means of achieving greater independent mobility. And while some may find a wheelchair to be oppressive, to me and other wheelchair users, it can be a means to claim our autonomy.
While laws may indeed help to address the injustice of disability, often inclusion and early exposure to difference can go a long way to address prejudice and misconceptions that exist about us - disabled people!!!