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You Know What They Say When You Assume…

By Cyndi Woods

Hello all! I’ve been thinking recently about the capabilities in disabilities. Sounds like a limerick doesn’t it? I came across a Facebook post from a company that made low-vision equipment. They were sharing an article from a woman in another country who did a lot of traveling for work and always requested assistance ahead of time to be sure she got on the right plane and such. She had a visual impairment but did not yet use a cane.

She had been getting frustrated as she kept encountering the same remarks from airport staff. “Why do you need help? You don’t look blind.”

This comment has been made to me and I’m sure to countless others. The question is asked when there isn’t an obvious disability to be seen. There are many times blind people don’t use canes. If we are with other people, if we are in a familiar area, or if we just don’t need to use it.

My very good friend has very small hearing-aids and if you’re not looking for them, you don’t see them. There are so many disabilities that are unseen but yet we often get the “you don’t ‘look’ disabled”. Exactly how is it that people with disabilities are supposed to look?

This particular woman was very well dressed, with hair and make-up in place. Somehow looking glamorous didn’t fit the “disability” image. This makes me sad and a little disheartened. As a blind woman myself, I can assure you that I’m not apposed to heading out to the store in a ball cap and face naked. But I also love to pick out a really put together classy outfit, style my hair, and apply some lovely make-up.

I have another beautiful friend who is an artist and loves to look put together complete with hair and make-up. She happens to use a wheelchair. Men are not exempt from this assumption either. If a man is wearing a fine suit and an expensive looking watch or cuff links, would you notice the medical alert bracelet he was wearing? How about if a child was playing in the sand-box at the park with other kids and having a blast laughing and squealing, would you assume he or she wasn’t Autistic?

People with disabilities don’t necessarily “look” like they have disabilities. When their disabilities are more visible, you should expect and not be surprised that they will be put together. We’re people too. But ya know what? Sometimes we want to just put on an old pair of yoga pants or sweats and wear yesterday’s T-shirt, maybe not even brush our hair that day just cause we’re not feelin’ it as well. The point is, there’s no way that someone with or without a disability is “supposed” to look. We’re all gonna have glamour days and pajama days. Let’s try not to make assumptions about each other, okay? Ya know what they say when you assume…

Until next time, claim your courage, then claim your victory!

Headshot of Cyndi WoodsCyndi Woods is TDN’s writer in residence and has a passion for storytelling.  You can find out more about her at www.cyndiwoods.com