The Secret Deafie: My collision with a wheelchair user

Posted on March 26, 2012

The Secret Deafie is a series of anonymous columns written by different writers. Today’s Deafie tells us about an incident in the street…

One day, I went shopping to my local Tesco.

I was walking back to my flat along the high street, laden down with three or four heavy bags when I paused at a side street to check for cars coming. An electric wheelchair pulled up beside me.

I moved aside slightly to give them more room, checked for cars and crossed the side road. Suddenly, my bags on one side were barged out of the way as the electric wheelchair zoomed past me, its middle-aged male occupant turning back to glare at me as though I were a piece of dirt.

Confused, and trying to work out what I had done to deserve this, I watched as he trundled up the street and very soon, all became clear.

He hadn’t got ten feet before a small family was in his way. Suddenly they reacted, saw him, and moved aside for him, all smiles and “aren’t we nice for letting the disabled man through” and he waved at them jauntily as he went by.

I realised he must have called out to get their attention. Hearing him, they moved aside.

He must have called to me to get my attention and ask me to make room. Except, being deaf, I didn’t hear him.

Rather than checking to see if I was wearing a hearing aid, he had clearly assumed that I was ignoring him, and was therefore the scum of the earth.

I’ve had this from able-bodied people, but more fool me, I thought that disabled people would know better, that deaf and disabled people would be paying a bit more attention.

I couldn’t believe the arrogance of the man, who clearly thought it was his god-given right to have people move out of his way immediately, and who had clearly made an assumption based on the fact that I hadn’t heard him.

I was furious and I nearly, so very nearly, abandoned all my shopping and ran after him to have a damn good row and remind him that not all disabilities are obvious. Only the fact that I couldn’t face having to go back and pick up all my shopping after I’d confronted him stopped me.

But do you know what, sometimes, just sometimes I wish I’d just said ‘sod it.’

I really do.

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