10 things to know when meeting someone in a wheelchair

As a person with a disability, I have learned to successfully navigate the wonderful world of awkward situations.

Whether I'm out grocery shopping or at the movies with friends, it's not out of the ordinary to be thrusted into uncomfortable experiences. From the painfully piercing stares from toddlers, to inappropriate remarks from strangers, I've seen and heard them all.

Over the past 18 years of using an electric wheelchair, I've bumbled and lumbered my way through experiences and have become an expert in the excruciating.

With this incredible wealth of knowledge, I'm offering these 10 things to consider when you meet someone with a disability:

We can be heroes

We all had our idols growing up. Whether it was your freshman English teacher who always challenged you to follow your dreams or your favorite baseball player who always left you in awe, idols can be all around us. 

For me, one of my most memorable idols lived on my television. 

When I became sick and spent several months in the hospital, I didn't know what my future held. I was 14-years-old and had to learn how to move my arms and breathe all over again. Seeing tomorrow quickly became my daily goal and thinking about life outside of the hospital was more dreams than reality. 

While I put my education on hold, I still thought about what my life would be like after college. I had some ideas on what I wanted to do as a career, but a fateful encounter in my hospital room changed my life forever. 

A Disability Fee?

This morning, I needed to have my wheelchair-accessible van sent to the auto shop for repairs. I normally am finished with work around 1pm, so I asked the mechanic to have the repairs done by then and he said it should be completed by the afternoon.

A Whole Different Kind of Strength

This past December, my mother was diagnosed with a very bad infection and had to be hospitalized for three weeks. For a variety of reasons, her illness was one of the most surreal and traumatic experiences of my life. 

First off, seeing my mother in such bad shape was very frightening. When she first fell ill and was sent to the ICU, she had to be intubated to help her breathe, just like I was when I was 14 years old. Watching her struggle to breathe as plastic tubes protruded from her mouth brought up so many emotions; fear, uncertainty, sadness.