Let’s pretend you don’t know who this guy is.

But at first glance in public, many people would think this man is incapable of intelligent thought. Because he can’t speak, and looks different, some people would think that he probably isn’t the brightest person in the world.

But, he is. Stephen Hawking is the most brilliant man alive. We can argue about that part of it but at first glance, if you saw him at Target, you may even feel sorry for him.  Pity him. Talk down to him. Speak to him like a child while he drools.

I was rolling down the street with my hubby and we stopped for ice cream.  The woman turns to him, “Does she want vanilla?”

“Ask her. She’s right there.” Hubby said. She turned to me, looked down and patted my hair.

“Aw honey would you like vanilla?” she asked in the most condescending manner.

I felt like a little kid even though I was 32 years old at the time. All she saw was the wheelchair and she spoked to me as if I couldn’t speak for myself. This happens so much. It happened the other day with the Hammond Police Department. For some reason, the officer turned to my daughter and ask if I was fingerprinted to get my firearms license to carry in my state. My daughter was bewildered and told him to direct his question to me because I was capable of answering for myself.

Once people see a wheelchair, they begin to strip you of who you are and make you conform to their thoughts of who they think you are through their experiences. If they were around people that were mentally ill or had an intellectual disability, they relate you with them. You become whatever they’ve conjured up in their mind about people with a disability.

It doesnt matter how I dress, look, or act. It’s almost uncanny how people treat you once they realize you’re disabled. Once, I was behind a table and I was treated like a regular person but the minute I rolled from behind the table, everything changed. People started to ‘baby talk’ me, even when just minutes before, they KNEW that I was able to communicate with them.

So why do we do this? Why do you think you can tell with accuracy that someone is “slow”? They could even be on medication at the time. Even if there is an intellectual disability there, that doesn’t mean that it’s an indicator at all of their intelligence.

If someone stutters, or slurs their word, does that mean you can tell anything about them? I knew a woman with cerebral palsy who spoke a few languages. I don’t know many people in life that could do that, who have no problems so to speak. In fact, when I’m in my chair, I make a point to answer people in German or Spanish when I feel they are being rude to me.  I don’t want people treating me any differently.

Answer by Sonya Abarcar

Can you tell if someone is slow?

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