The Show’s Over, I’m Not from Mars

issue 2

By Agnes Tung

We’ve all been judged, intentionally or unintentionally. It’s normal. Many people are judged immediately on their physical appearance alone, and whatever is “normal” has a varying degree from person to person.

But for me, being wheelchair-bound, do I really have to feel under all those judging eyes like I’m from Mars?

At 19, I was diagnosed with bone cancer, and I’ve been wheelchair-bound since. I’m not looking for pity and I really don’t care much for the comments and whispers. I just want to feel like less of a sideshow.

Judging a person who is less mobile whether they’re on a wheelchair or on crutches is, needless to say, inconsiderate. Those long, lingering stares often times can destroy the self- confidence and self-worth of the less mobile.

A friend of mine who moves around with the aid of crutches told me of her encounter with a bus driver two years ago who was oblivious to her condition and needs. Instead of moving closer to her, the bus stopped some distance away and she had to deal with a longer walk. When she fell, the bus driver to her dismay did not seem bothered, nor did he call on others to lend a hand. It makes me wonder if bus drivers think we’re being troublesome?

I feel that graciousness is still found wanting and people are getting more judgmental. A poll released by the Singapore Kindness Movement in April this year reported that Singapore’s Graciousness Index, which tracks the perception and encounters of kindness and graciousness in Singapore, fell eight points to 53, the lowest in the five years since the survey began. We’re a kind country, but I think we can do better.

As a developed economy we’re getting more judgmental when we should be having more sympathy and empathy. People with disabilities have a purpose in our society and we all have talents, some yet to be recognised. We have the determination and enthusiasm to achieve more.

Take it from me – we are trying to prove that our disabilities are not disabling so as long as we keep a positive mindset.

Changing the way our society thinks is not going to be a day job. It requires everyone to take an unselfish approach to the disabled to make them feel that society cares.

Till then, let’s hold off on the judging and the stares, and spend more time reaching out with a helping hand.

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