How People React to My Disability and Wheelchair
By Josh McDermott
Friday, June 7, 2019
Before I was diagnosed with limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, I was able to walk, run, jump, play sports and live a so-called “normal life.” How people perceived me as able bodied is completely different from how they look at me now!
Have you ever been stared at? I mean really stared at, to the point, where it’s clearly noticeable? We’ve all done it. If you have ever traveled to New York City, you’d know there are a lot of interesting people to look at, from all walks of life. Before my disability, if I saw someone who was different or dressed in a way that was weird to me, I’d stare at them. I think this is a common reaction among human beings, especially if someone is different from what society perceives as “normal,” like someone who uses a wheelchair.
When I was younger and stared at someone because they looked different, I had no idea how that made someone feel. Now that I use a Quantum Power Wheelchair with iLevel® technology, I see people staring at ME. I feel like I’m a bill board or some strange science experiment. This feeling really bothers a lot of people who have disabilities themselves. Yet, I don’t mind when people stare at me. I use this opportunity to educate people! If I’m on the street in my power wheelchair and someone just keeps staring at me, I look them dead in the eyes and smile as I get closer. Once I am close enough to them, even if they’re walking by, I always say, “Hi sir! How’s it going?” Or, “Hey ma’am…” When I do this, sometimes people stop. Other times, people say, “Cool chair,” and keep walking.
Most of the time, people who stare at me aren’t even looking at me, they’re actually looking at my chair! They’re trying to figure out how I’m driving while elevated at iLevel. This is where an education opportunity comes into play. If someone does stop, I can educate him or her, not just about my iLevel Power Wheelchair but also about my disability, and how I live an independent and very active lifestyle! Most people are blown away when I tell them about Quantum products that are available. Having a disability puts you into a niche group. A lot of people do not understand what a disability is, and they don’t know what products, until they know someone who has a disability or they need a product themselves!
Having a disability is a blessing in a way. Yeah, it sucks, but the disabled community can make a difference if we all use our wheelchairs to educate others! Before I was diagnosed with my disability, I didn’t know! Now I make a point to show that there are different people who use wheelchairs, yet, they’re still people!
About Josh: Josh McDermott is a consumer advocate for Quantum Rehab®. He is a public speaker and has served as a goodwill ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Josh lives in New York and loves to travel. Click here to learn more about Josh.