Fried fish, a wheelchair and an impromptu handshake

This is a thread about an encounter I experience all to often as a person with a disability.

Yesterday, I was eating dinner at a local fish place with my dad when a man came up to the table and asked to shake my dad’s hand.

“I just wanted to shake your hand and say it’s awesome what you do,” he said. “I have a son with a disability too.”

He then walked away. I’ve been through this before, but every time this happens, which is too many times, I am speechless and annoyed.

I get where he is coming from and he means no disrespect, but he brings forth an important lesson for me to teach my able-bodied counterparts.

I, and every other person with a disability who goes out in public, am not looking for a pat on the back or a gold sticker for doing something so trivial.

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Yes, my dad was helping me eat my delicious fried fish, but he wasn’t looking for recognition. We were simply doing something many fathers and sons do. Spend some quality time together over a good meal.

What’s worse is that he didn’t even speak or recognize me as anything other than a disadvantaged man in a wheelchair. And that is the root of the problem.

He didn’t even realize that I had just got off working an eight-hour day at the office and I wanted to treat my dad to dinner to unwind from a long day.

So the lesson? Yes, I’m disabled. Yes, people help me with most daily tasks. No, living a normal life like everyone else is not some incredible accomplishment that needs your recognition.

If you want to show your appreciation for me and those who help me navigate life, a simple “hello” will do. Above all else, I just want your respect and sense of belonging. No award is necessary.