In an upcoming event I am scheduled to attend, I saw this option: “Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all (school) sponsored events. Do you require an accommodation in order to participate in this program?” I thought a lot about this offer. Assistance would be nice. I do have disabilities. However, I think the organizers were thinking more along the lines of wheelchairs or assistance for low-sight individuals. My thoughts went more towards having people hold my hand and guide me in a world that sometimes leaves me a little confused.
If you passed by me, you will see a lady with a slight limp and a quick smile. You will see someone who sees where she is going but does not always see the hallway on the left she should’ve gone down when you said “take the first left”. You will see someone who is grateful when you said you want to speak with her later, but she – having prosopagnosia – looks lost as she scans the room suddenly panicked noticing there are three men with greying hair wearing a navy jacket just like you. I am embarrassed when I leave a piece of my lunch hanging on my lip, but I don’t know it is there because that area is still numb like the entire left half of my body used to be after my stroke. You cannot see any obvious physical hint showing my frustration when I look for the person who was going to walk me to the podium, but I fill with dread and worry when I don’t see her as the room quickly fills with individuals.
I am a slightly disabled individual inside of a, for the most part, able body. I commented to someone how much I would appreciate them going with me to this particular event, so they could hold my hand. The comment was answered with a well-meaning chuckle saying they had no doubt I would be able to handle this on my own quite well. I hesitantly agreed. They were correct. I will do just fine on my own. I always do. But, believe me, sometimes facing a world you cannot fully see and being close to people you cannot recognize is more challenging than I may let on.
The event I am attending wants me to check an option if I “require an accommodation in order to participate in this program”. I am sure I will leave it unchecked. After all, in the one line how do I explain I would like someone to come so I can hold their arm and have a friend who will guide me? There is no simple way to explain all of this within a small space, so I will eagerly seek out an individual who will quickly and fully understand when I say I am lost because I cannot recognize anyone in this room. Maybe they will be willing to walk around with me. Sometimes it is invisible limitations that leave me so lost. Yet, I always remember maybe it is these exact same limitations which have forced to me to have grown so independent and so strong.