You Don’t Need to See a Disability to Believe It Exists

by Rachel Wendte

Charlie responds with one of the wisest quotes I’ve ever heard attributed to a movie child: “Just because you haven’t seen it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”

And that, my friends, is one of the strongest points I can make for people who have disabilities that aren’t obvious to other people.

Sitting Doesn’t Mean Lazy

This one is so, so hard for me. Chicago public transit can be very crowded, and I always go as far back as possible on the bus so that front seats are open for people with walkers, strollers, or canes. I rarely sit in the accessible seating, and if I do, it’s out of necessity, like when the bus is already full and I know I can’t stand for the half-hour commute. When it’s rush hour and it’s packed, I know it looks like I’m too much of a diva to stand, but I promise it’s not true.

It doesn’t help that I look like I’m very able to stand for that amount of time. But people don’t see my knees shaking underneath my tights, fighting to stay upright. I have a young face; I’m only 28 years old. But when I get the evil eye, I stand my ground and say, “I’m so sorry. I’d offer you my seat, but I have a physical disability and really do need it.” I dread having to clarify, but when older women (sorry, ladies, but it’s always you) hiss at me that I should get up for my elders or that I shouldn’t be so entitled, I’m not just going to sit there. Well, actually, I am going to sit there, but I will not be silent.

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