Finding the ideal place to volunteer takes time. Add a wheelchair to that process, all the assumptions that go along with not being able to stand and it gets a bit more complicated.
It took several months of searching until I found the right organization to devote my time and energies. After meeting with the director of volunteers, she was excited to have me start & even stated that the group leaders would “snatch me up” and would be grateful for my help. In the meantime, she asked me to crochet matts for the homeless and happily, I agreed. What happened next was an experience I least expected in 2019.
Our 2nd meeting was uncomfortable. She was nervous and very apologetic while stating “they are worried about liability” and she “was sorry.” It took time for me to realize what she was saying without saying it outloud. The mere fact that I used a wheelchair to get around was viewed by her coworkers as an inconvenience and a hinderance. That was what their focus was on.
Once again, I found myself in the face of discrimination and the feelings of helplessness it produced. I resolved my anger and found another organization to volunteer with. This experience has made me want to devote more time to advocacy & changing the things I can.
The misconception & misunderstanding that still exists is something to be reckoned with. Being a wheelchair user has taught me many lessons. The greatest of these has been humility and gratitude for the small things.
Life will never be the same because in a heartbeat everything was taken from me & I was at the mercy of others.
We are all important, have value and special gifts to share with society. No matter what plane you are doing it from. Please remember to see the individual not the wheelchair because its not who I am – it’s just how I get around.