The other day I was going about my household chores. I was down in the lobby of my apartment building collecting the mail, when I heard a preschooler ask his mom something that everyone who has a visible disability has heard numerous times. That question is “Mommy, why does that person…”. In my own case it’s usually “Mommy, why does that person walk like that?”.
That one question used to make me cringe. It reminded me of my Cerebral Palsy, something I used to wish that I could hide. It was an embarrassment, a mistake, a liability. That was not my reaction the other day though. It made me smile. These days I just see those questions as a teaching moment and move on.
What I realized was that I am still running around doing those daily chores. Yes I have a physical disability that limits how I do things, but it does not really limit what I do. It just means that I have to be more creative about how I do them. There are and there always will be people who are ignorant, either shunning me or being too helpful. Most people I have found however are willing to learn. If they are already asking questions, then that can only be a positive.
So I have a request for parents of young children. If they are honestly curious about why I walk the way I do, let them come up and ask. Yes it might or might not be taken the wrong way by some people if you do it, but most of the people I know who have visible disabilities would be happy to answer a question or two from a preschooler or kindergartener. I personally welcome all honest questions.