Is every illness and disability invisible?
We talk a lot about invisible and visible illnesses and disabilities. The quick and easy definition is that if you can tell a person is ill or disabled by looking at them then theirs is a visible illness. If you can’t tell by looking at them, it’s invisible.
Sometimes, though, I wonder if all ill and disabled people are invisible to the world at large. Take the photo at the right. It’s of elevator buttons 1, 2, and 3. Over the button for the 2nd floor is taped a cute little drawing of a flight of stairs. There’s a lot of tape there, enough to make sure you can’t press the button, presumably in the hope you get out and take the stairs.
(Let’s all pretend we don’t see the foolishness in this. What if you got on that elevator on floor 12 and wanted to go down to 2? What if you wanted to go from 3 to 4? Someone didn’t think when they were doing this.)
Such a great idea, right? We should all be healthier. Park farther away and walk! Take the stairs instead of the elevator! We’re inundated with signs and articles about this. It seems the elevator activist at the right thought he or she’d take it just a bit further and force people to do so. What a good person! A true exercise inspiration!
No. For so many reasons, no. She’s forgotten about the people carrying heavy things, or the ones pushing strollers. But at least those people could use stairs if they wanted to. Maybe they’re strong enough to carry the heavy thing, maybe the stroller folds up. (And don’t think I haven’t noticed the aspect of shaming inherent in this and how it’s none of her business if people choose to take the elevator.)
But what about the people who can’t take the stairs? What happens to the man in the wheelchair who can’t push the button to get to his floor? Taking the stairs isn’t an option for him unless he’s a super-daredevil and is heading down. What about the teen who is on crutches with a broken leg? The lady whose illness causes excessive fatigue and requires her to use a mobility aid? What about the blind kid who can no longer read the Braille telling him which floor is his thanks to all that tape?
That’s what I mean when I wonder if everyone with an illness or disability is invisible to the general population. Tape right over the Braille. Right over it! As if those little bumps were decorative instead of essential. Preventing people from using the floor button as if taking the elevator instead of the stairs was a choice for everyone instead of being a necessity for some.
I don’t really have a conclusion to this. I can’t explain why when able-bodied people look they don’t see us. I don’t know why we don’t enter into their worldview. I have no idea why we aren’t recognized when we’re standing and sitting right here. All I can do is ask that when you encounter things like this you pause and think and wonder if they really apply universally or if they’ve left so many of us out in the cold. Look for us; we’re here.
September 10-16, 2012 I’m blogging for Invisible Illness Awareness Week.