- Students’ Column
- War and Military
My sister’s grip on the wheelchair handles tightened as our neighbour uneasily smiled at me. I knew my neighbour’s smile was not for my good hair but to remind me I am different. My sister hurriedly albeit gently pushed me (and my wheelchair) towards the entrance of the building, away from a disabled mindset.
The squeaking sound of the wheelchair was muted by the ominous silence pervaded by the steep stairs at the entrance of the building, a conspicuous example of architectural inaccessibility inconspicuous to people without disabilities.
My sister was profusely sweating by the time we had reached our obstacle course – the pavement.
As she manoeuvred the wheelchair along an uneven and pothole-ridden pavement I heard a soft clicking sound from my wheelchair, it reminded me of a time when I used to tape a playing card on my bicycle spoke to make my bicycle sound like a motorcycle.
I looked down to see that plastic covers strewn on the pavement had gotten stuck on the wheelchair and was making the sound, before I could bring her attention to it, the wheelchair came to a halt but the pedestrians behind us didn’t; they inconsiderately jolted us and almost knocked me off the pavement.
We waited for the crowd and its frenzy to abate and reached the bus stop at our own pace. The bus stop was desolate by the time a Low Floor Bus had arrived.
The bus hadn’t stopped close enough to the kerb and as my sister flexed her muscles to help me get on board, I heard a commuter mutter under her breath, ‘Oh! What a nuisance! I hope that thing doesn’t make me late’, her reaction was bittersweet because I was acknowledged as an object of nuisance but acknowledged nonetheless.
My sister wheeled me from the bus-stop to the examination centre. Prying eyes accosted me; their metaphoric crooked beaks were silhouetted against the blue sky ready to peck me apart with their tactless questions, idle pity and patronization but I only paid attention to the squeaking sound of the wheelchair and the moment it stopped I looked up to see a flight of stairs. I closed my eyes and imagined myself nonchalantly walking up that flight of stairs.
I felt a hand on my shoulder; her fingers gently gripped my shoulders in a tacit perception of my problem. I opened my eyes, with an unwavering voice my sister asked me, “Are you ready?”
The world I KNEW had schools, theatres, restaurants that served over-priced food and over-crowded buses but the world I KNOW has only 4 white walls. The door to the world outside is locked by government and public apathy, disdain and discrimination. You hold the key to that door. With awareness we can make demands, demands that will pass and implement effective laws that will make everything accessible to everyone.
When education becomes accessible, our performance becomes the only question that needs answering, the only difference that matters.
Turn the key to the right and open that door.