By Michelle Martin
Published August 05, 2013
Jean Vanier has written about the fear we have of people who have limitations and struggles that are evident when we encounter them, and how our need to feel like we ourselves are perfect (and so worthy of acceptance) informs how we deal with others.
It can't be denied that this is often at the back of our minds: "There but for the grace of God go I," we may say, letting the cashier at the LCBO debit an extra dollar from our account for United Way, throwing some change in the St. Vincent de Paul box at the back of the church, or bundling up our cast-off clothes and furniture to be collected in support of diabetes, or cerebral palsy.
This fear can lead us to avoid people, or worse, to exclude them. I've often wondered if this is behind the scooter jokes that keep cropping up, from the lowest kinds on the Only in Hamilton website, to the slightly more sophisticated types on, say, Hammer in the News.
People who use scooters to travel have reasons as unique as their own particular limitations for doing so. There are pros and cons to both power scooters and electric wheelchairs, and while an electric wheelchair may elicit more of our empathy because of our pre-existing biases (wheelchair = disability, scooter = lazy), the mobility device a person chooses to use is normally chosen in consultation with an occupational therapist who looks at someone's mobility needs when performing activities of daily living both indoors and out.
And we are all just one stroke, car accident, serious injury, major seizure, or neurological diagnosis away from needing a scooter or wheelchair ourselves, with chances increasing as we age.
Of course, some power scooter operators are heedless, just as there are heedless cyclists, drivers and yes, pedestrians. But most, like all of us, are just trying to get done what they need to do in a day, and get back home again safely.
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