I know all too well that, as Radi Kaiuf is quoted as saying in a L.A Times article a couple weeks ago, “there’s a stigma about being in a wheelchair, as if your mental capacities are affected as well.” Yes, I completely relate to the article saying, “In a wheelchair, he often encounters pity and condescension. When he uses a wheelchair in a restaurant, for example, waiters sometimes ask his companion for his food order, as if he were a child.” Try also having a speech impediment.
But I get so tired of news stores like this - about the disabled trying to be not disabled. This article is all about Kaiuf, who is definitely no child but a 46-year-old man in Israel paralyzed when shot in a 1988 Lebanon firefight, competing in the 10K portion of the Tel Aviv marathon by using a ReWalk robotic device that enables him to walk.
If is fine with me that Kaiuf uses the device. I think it’s great that he is happy using it. But why is it news - deserving a quarter of a page, with a large picture - on the other side of the world?
Is Kaiuf using the device to make his life easier and more enjoyable? Or is he using it to appear less or not disabled? Kaiuf is quoted as saying, “Being upright makes a big difference. People see me as normal.”
Clearly, Kaiuf feels pressure to look “normal,” knowing the “stigma” of being disabled. It may very well be that he feels that his life is easier and more enjoyable when he looks normal.
News stories like this are no doubt part of the reason, if not the reason, why he feels this pressure, why his life is easier and more enjoyable when he looks normal.
Perhaps it helps to ask yourself if it would be okay if there was an article like this about a gay man marrying a woman in order to appear normal and make his life easier.
I’m all for trying to do your best. I’m not for trying to be something you’re not.