Everyday Heroics

Isn’t it true that sometimes a person doing the right thing can really turn your day around? I certainly have felt this way! This is something that I call “everyday heroics” because it’s just regular people doing something powerful for another person during the course of their day.

Accessibility challenges

A lot of my experiences with everyday heroics have to do with accessibility and challenges I have just navigating my day in a wheelchair. I love my wheelchair because it helps me get around to work, social events, visits with friends, and so much more. I’m not so great on my feet and would be limited to not even the size of my home if I didn’t have a terrific wheelchair to help me get around.

Usually, I have to fight to get on elevators and public transit and ramps for crossing the street and so on. But I sometimes have wonderful moments when someone holds the elevator door or gets off the elevator to let my wheelchair on because they can take the stairs or escalator, or makes room on the ramp so I can cross the street. Just these little acknowledgments that allow me to use the accessible features that I require to get around, makes my day.

So when I recently read the story of the Parisian bus driver who kicked off all the passengers that would not allow a man in a wheelchair to board, I clapped my hands! Apparently, the man in the wheelchair (due to multiple sclerosis) was waiting at a bus stop and when it arrived the passengers would not move to let his wheelchair on despite their being room. The driver decided this was not right so he told everyone to get off the bus. He then boarded the man with the wheelchair and told the waiting passengers they would have to wait for the next bus!

Of course, there was an outcry. How could the driver treat the able-bodied passengers that way? Others thought the passengers who wouldn’t make room were behaving terribly.

Sharing, only a little bit

But what I want to focus on are two points. First, a little bit of sharing (moving to make space for others, even those in wheelchairs) benefits us all. We all need a little bit of room sometimes.

Second, I applaud the driver for sticking up for the wheelchair-using passenger because my experience is that this doesn’t happen very often. I’ve had a lot of bus drivers pass me by, claim the ramp or lift was broken (note: the ramps can be put down by hand), or even that the bus was too full. I’ve been left behind by a bus many times while able-bodied people boarded without a thought to who is being left. It takes a lot of guts for a driver to recognize and accommodate the person who is expecting to be marginalized.

Everyday heroics means recognizing the humanity in other people—even when they look different or act differently from us. People shove by me all the time on public transit or rolling along the streets because they are not thinking of me as a person, but rather as an object to be ignored or bullied.

It’s not always easy to treat each other respectfully as people—but it’s exactly what we want from others. We’ve got to be willing to give it, even when we don’t receive this ourselves.

People often assume by my wheelchair that I don’t get around much, that I don’t work, that I don’t have my own life for which I’m proud. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. How I look shouldn’t cause all these silly assumptions. Let’s start first by assuming that we’re all people with lives that are important to us, and go from there. Then we’ll be performing everyday heroics every single day.

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