Whenever I would see a person sitting on a wheelchair in the mall or any place other than the hospital, I would secretly follow them with my eyes. That’s it. I would not even think of why they were there. Just stare at them. And after a few minutes, I would simply forget about them, as if I never saw them.
So, when I first heard of the assignment, I was really excited. I have always wanted to conduct a social experiment, and with this I am able to do so. And in result, I gained a new perspective, standing behind a chair with wheels.
Right after church, my brother and I went to the SM North Edsa to conduct the experiment. I was looking forward to it at first, but when I was about to start the actual project, I felt shy and nervous. Looking back, I don’t know why I felt that way. Why was there anxiety? Was there a need for it?
I got the wheelchair from the stall near the main building. Then, I went to meet with my brother at our rendezvous point, near the bathroom in the first floor. He also looked forward to the experiment, and volunteered to sit on my behalf. When he sat, it became more difficult to push and turn. After a few minutes of walking around the first floor, I got used to it. We walked for some time, but the people around doesn’t seem to care though I did see a few heads turn as we passed by, with rather puzzled faces. They moved out of the way as we walked, and that’s it.
When we tried to go to a different floor, we needed to ride the elevator. It was alright, but riding in the elevator made me realize how bulky a wheelchair is. A number of people can fit inside an elevator, but with a wheelchair, it gets even fewer.
The floor we walk on seems so different when I pushed the wheel chair. It was much smoother and easier to push in the block, but when I went out to the sky garden, I needed to work a little bit harder when pushing. These are the fine details I do not notice when I walk on my own, but for a person helping someone with the wheelchair, it makes a big difference.
Entering a store is a lot harder. Stores do not have much space to move around. With tables piled with clothes in the middle and shelves hanged on the sides, it was very difficult to try to squeeze in a wheelchair inside, especially one with many people. I didn’t try to enter any store with the wheelchair, afraid to bump and break anything inside.
After about an hour, I dropped my brother off and said goodbye to one of the most useful devices ever invented.
Overall, the experience was very exciting and meaningful. I learned to appreciate more what I have and can do. Not everyone has the same ability as I can, to walk, jump, and run. They have to struggle to go find an elevator, without even having the option to take the escalator or the stairs. Their movements are bound by the four sides of their chairs, and they have a hard time doing things on their own. Without the assistance of others, they have a hard time trying to experience even an ounce of entertainment and leisure.
On the other hand, I saw the immense change on how typical people view persons with physical disabilities. Though a few people did turn their heads when we passed, but their faces showed no disgust, or any other forms of discrimination. Times have changed the views of people towards them. They snow show, respect, care and compassion, unlike before.
People with disabilities are people too. They have right to go out and have fun, to not feel discriminated when they do, just like me and you.