“Can you handle that?”
“Do you know where you are going?”
“Are you sure you don’t want help?”
“You’re doing great!”
To the untrained eye these may seem like innocent questions and statements. However, to a person with a disability these may be one of the attitudinal barriers we encounter most frequently: the patronizing attitude. Physical barriers can be inconvenient, but they can generally be overcome; the barriers that are forced on us by society and their views and ideas of our capabilities are much harder to overcome. It’s not impossible, it just requires a little advocacy. Sometimes, we may not always be in the mood to enlighten our fellow citizens, we are only human, after all.
I find myself frequently losing patience with patronizing individuals, especially when I get the same line over and over. Sometimes by the same person. I went for a week and half and was asked everyday by the same woman if I knew where I was going. She saw me everyday in the same spot at the same station. Midway through the second week I saw her coming and preemptively shot out: “yes, I know where I’m going!” She never asked me that question again and I got some strange looks for seemingly verbally accosting this person. This attitude is also embedded deeply in the two “types” of people I’ve written about earlier, the “Concerned Citizen” will grab you, drag you across the street or yank you back from the train platform with a shout of: “watch out! You don’t want to get hit!” (meanwhile, they ignore the 4 year old staggering around the platform’s edge). The “Proud Observer” will watch until you do something alone and then pop out of nowhere like a Jack in the Box: “Oh, you signed that credit card slip all by yourself?! I’m impressed!” Rather than having a conversation about the meaning of and types of blindness, I roll my eyes, sometimes plaster a grin on my face (more frequently I cock an eye and scowl) and walk away.
How do you deal with these types of situations?