man sitting in wheelchairI'm Sub-Human

“Let’s go to the beach!” a friend yelled. We lived only about an hour away from the jade-colored waters of the gulf coast along Florida’s white sand beaches. It was hot summer and the humidity was pressing upon us like an oppressive bench clamp. Cool ocean water would definitely feel good!

Five of us piled into the car and headed out. The morning was still young, about 9:15, giving us plenty of time to act like fish for a few hours and still make it back home before dark. About halfway to the beach we stopped at a gas station to pick up ice-cold cokes then continued on down the shimmering asphalt road. Most of the chit-chat was nonsense, just friendly chatter and bantering common among close friends.


We never made it to the beach that day. I don’t know what happened. You hear the old cliché, “I woke up in the hospital” all the time. Unfortunately, that is all I can say too. I’ve been told that another car pulled out in front of us; couldn’t tell you. But that is not my point anyway. The point is that at the moment I became injured I became less of a human being. Oh, I’ve still got all the parts I was born with- arms, legs, etc. My brain works perfectly fine too. The only problem is that I sit in a chair and that position places me two to three feet lower than most other adults when they stand. For some reason that lower position makes me less human than those who can stand.

wheelchair in empty hallwayI’m sure if you ask well-meaning people who give me sympathetic nods or just plain look over me like I am not there sitting somewhere below their forced gaze above and way from me that they would say that I was not less human and that I was “normal.” Yet their body language says more than their contrived words.

Where the division becomes even more apparent is the dating scene. I might as well forget that idea. After all, real humans don’t date sub-humans. Every so often I hear about someone with a disability getting married, but that is few and far between. Normally the marriage is with the disabled person’s home health aide or someone in a similar position. Sometimes people with disabilities marry people with disabilities, or in other words, sub-humans marrying-sub-humans. Seemingly it’s never the girl down the street with the awesome body or the brainiac guy in class that marries someone with a disability. I suppose we would hold them back in life. Normal people think sub-humans do that.

What has been written above seems negative and it is. But it is also true. Most people with disabilities can relate to my story. Most people without disabilities are saying in their minds, “This poor person” as they read these words.

In many ancient societies everyone had to pull their weight or they were left to die, beg or scavenge. In more modern societies faith-based groups and some governments have undertaken the task of helping the less-fortunate. (Yes, that too. We are “less fortunate.”) However, society as a whole continues to look down and denigrate our existence.

There are those people who have tried to help. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has tried to force businesses to make it easier for sub-humans to do business with them. But really, why did it take an Act? Why don’t businesses make the changes necessary so that we can spend our money with them anyway? Is our money different, less useful like our bodies are? We still love good food, concerts, movies and all the other things humans enjoy. And we’re still willing to pay greenbacks for it.

basketball players in wheelchairsHollywood and TV studios that have in the past relegated people with disabilities to minor roles or used them as laughing stocks have now started using disabled people in starring roles. I feel that this has gone a long way toward helping humans realize how much sub-humans are capable of doing. It’s a start.

So how should you act toward me when you see me sitting in my wheelchair? In one word: normal. See, I AM normal. I’m not a sub-human who needs talked down to. Shake my hand and let’s have a meaningful conversation. If practical, pull up a chair and sit with me. Treat me like any other friend who has two useful legs.

When I apply for employment within your company, be willing to make a few modifications so that I can make the greatest contribution possible to your organization. And remember, just because I’m three feet lower than you when you stand, I still deserve the same pay rate as a human on your own level.

I know, this article may never go anywhere, but it helps to get this frustration off my chest. After all, just like humans, sub-humans have feelings too.  


 (A guest blog)


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