Visible Disabilities

This is an interesting piece by a woman whose disability requires a wheel chair responding to the picture of Kylie Jenner in an Interview magazine spread using a wheelchair as a prop in the photos of her nearly naked sitting in a wheel chair. As did the author of this piece, I found the photo tastelessly using disability as a prop through which both the magazine and Jenner decided to use an undeniable symbol of disability to titillate the reader, inviting the person looking at the photo to objectify both the chair and the young woman.

I have had to use a cane for the past quarter of century. While I can walk long distances for up to 1 1/2 hours, I cannot stand still without rapidly spreading pain up my spine and across the muscles of my back. The way people viewed me with the cane when I was 40 are qualitatively different now that I’m in my mid 60s.

People will look at me openly trying to fit the cane with my appearance. When I step onto a crowded subway car and move towards the seats designated for the elderly and disabled I am frequently studiously avoided by a much younger healthier looking person or offered a seat by someone not in the designated seats.

I am frequently looked upon with frank mistrust by people who see me walking along an el or subway platform holding, not using my cane until I either come to a stop to wait or enter an open car. I have even taken verbal abuse on elevators by people who seem genuinely disgruntled by both my appearance and my use of my cane. Unlike most people on the streets in Chicago’s Loop I am hardly ignored. I can watch, without frequently knowing reactions and judgments related to my cane use. I suspect this is largely the result of my general healthy appearance combined with the manner in which I rely on my cane.

While I certainly don’t have the need for a wheelchair I have used them from time to time in airports when my spine and I are at odds with each other.

Regardless of what alerts others to noticeable disabilities, we do not have the luxury of anonymity, the ability to go about our business without the accompanying snap judgments..

About left0089

Columnist at American News Report. Pain care activist. Poet, memoirist.
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