Are we even allowed to say that? It is politically correct to say that you are a “person with special needs”. But don’t we all have special needs? Some of us need certain things more than others. Are we all handicapped in one way or another? Or how about the term “restricted”? But here too, however, we could ask: isn’t each of us somewhere more restricted than the other?
As soon as a person in a wheelchair encounters an edge that is higher than he/she can cope with alone, he/she is prevented from continuing. Or: the moment blind people can no longer orient themselves according to markings or sounds in order to find their goal, this is a case of a disablement. The word is absolutely right and expresses exactly what it is really about.
When I woke up in hospital after my operation and was confronted with being unable to control my left arm and my hand at all and that I was partially no longer in command of my leg, I was overpowered by a wave of sadness, but I did not yet consider it as a handicap. Even when I was in rehabilitation at the neurological hospital, I did not have the feeling that this would seriously affect my life. I could do a lot of things, and there was always someone there when I needed help.
Then I was at home and alone. I refused to be helped by “home care” because I wanted to try to become self-sufficient in order to return to work. And then I realised what disability really means: there were always moments when I just couldn’t do anything. Regardless of how hard I tried or wanted to do it, regardless of the extent to which I summoned all my power – it didn’t work. And this was the moment when I had to say to a complete stranger:
Please help me! I can’t do this… I’m disabled!
It was only then that I truly understood what disability really is – and what it is not.
I was devasted due to the degradation I experienced, the unbelievable humiliation that I couldn’t do something myself, but needed someone else to do it. And only at this point did I realise that this is the feeling that people with disabilities have to cope with.
Officially, I have had disabled status for a long time, because I have been blind in my right eye since I was 13 years old, but I also have other impairments. That is why I was included in the circle of so-called handicapped people many years ago. I have never taken advantage of this status because my constraints have never affected my life to such an extent that I have really been dependent on external help.
One cannot see three-dimensionally with only one eye, but how many jobs or everyday situations are there in which the eye for virtual reality is essential? It is clear that in future this will increasingly be the case but hopefully, it will no longer affect me. So far, my physical state has had a very little impact on my work capacity and my daily life. Now and again, I might have stumbled over obstacles or run into something that was quasi in my blind spot, but besides that, I could manage everything completely independently.
We, humans, are not only a very cruel (Report: Aktion T4), but also a very social species. I have not met a single person who, at my request, has not given me help when I needed it. Only once, when I was standing at the checkout in the supermarket and asked: “Could you please help me to put these things away?”, was I told brusquely that I should do it myself. I was a little disappointed to experience this kind of insensitivity, which of course also exists. But once I had continued with the words: “I’m sorry, I can only move one hand”, this person was also suddenly ready to help very quickly.
It is therefore up to all of us how we deal with other people’s disabilities, and whether or not we see or overlook them.
Translation into English: Anna Dichen
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