Wednesday, October 5, 2011

MOA Experience

The other day my sister and I went to the Mall of America to shop. It's the biggest Mall in the United States and the second biggest in the world (first biggest is in Canada). Although we only live 30 min. from it, I don't go there very often. It's always an interesting place to be at, full of different cultures and experiences. People come from all over the world to see the mall that's so close to me.

When we first got there, we looked around a couple stores on the main level and then decided to go up a level to another store. On our way to the elevator we stopped at a kiosk that had hermit crabs. We were just watching them, when the guy that worked there came up and started talking to my sister. He was asking her some questions and she was telling him how we've had hermit crabs before. Then I chimed in to the conversation and said to him that I had them but they'd all died. He got this surprised look on his face, looked at my sister and then straight to me and said, "Whoa, you can talk?"
I was like, "yeah!"
Then he said "good for you," and shook his head up and down a couple times. I didn't say anything to him afterwards; we left right away. Frankly I was a little in shock and kind of confused. Realizing afterwards that basically he had assumed that I was unable to talk because of my situation, I wish I would've said something else. I chuckle about it now, being that it was so unbelievably frightening at where assuming things in a situation gets you. I actually think this might happen a lot with people; it's just no one's said it out loud to me before.
After that, my sister and I kept going to our next destination. We went up the elevator a floor to the store we had planned on going to. When I first entered, there was a woman in front of me staring down at a rack of clothes. She looked up at me briefly and then turned to my nurse and said "I like the shirt she's wearing."
I just looked at her dumbfounded and said kind of sarcastically "thanks!" At that point I was a little annoyed but also disappointed in people. Felt kind of sheltered and in my own little world; like there was nobody around to help or defend. I moved to another spot in the store and went on with shopping despite my feelings. Sometimes when things like that happen I just have to take it as a learning experience and move on I guess. These certain situations are the exact reason why I want to get out there and educate others about people with disabilities.
It's important that people understand that just because someone is in a wheelchair, doesn't mean they can't talk or don't have abilities. My main goal is to help eliminate this stereotype and put fresh thoughts in people's minds. If everyone makes a conscious effort to help out with this, I think a lot of people could be reached and benefit.
Thanks for reading my blog and feel free to leave comments or questions. I look forward to them!


Jackie said...

Jenni, it saddens me that in this modern world where information is available at your fingertips - literally - that you still face attitudes like this on a daily basis. I applaud your desire to get out there and educate. I train guide dogs and I recently took one of my dogs in training to a school for an afternoon to assess him in that environment for his future owner. I have to say, with regards to the level of understanding of what I was doing e.g he's a working dog so don't fuss or distract him, I found the kids were so much better informed and self controlled than the adults. But then, kids are in the frame of mind for learning stuff, and you can go to a school and do a presentation to a whole bunch of them at a time. How do we get the message across to the adults though? Especially those who think they know it all and are not receptive to being told otherwise? I don't know the answers. Anyway, I hope your shopping trip wasn't too spoilt and you got some nice stuff!

colleen said...

Oh my gosh, I totally get this! I've had people talk to my nurses before too, assuming that I couldn't communicate too because of my vent. Can you say AWKWARD? Yes, let's keep on letting people in on the news...wheelchair users and vent. users CAN communicate and understand you!

Teoni said...

Agh, that sucks! I know what you mean though, I've been in that situation when out with my friend.

My friend has cerebral palsy which affects her physically so that she is in a wheelchair, but not mentally. I mean- She is training to be a teacher!

I went to town with her, and someone came up & started asking me questions, assuming I was her carer - I was like "ask her, she can speak!"

Some people eh

Anonymous said...

I certainly don't want to condone the behavior of the people at the mall, but I think I understand it. Many people have not been around people with disabilities very often. Sometimes I think they don't want to say anything because of a fear that they may say something wrong. Of course, that leads to the type of behavior that you experienced. Keep doing what you're doing to educate the public. As Jesus said, They know not what they do. I guess someone will have to teach them.

Anonymous said...

I can only imagine how frustrating it is to be treated like that. In their defense, I'm sure they weren't trying to be insensitive...their only exposure to people in electric WCs might have been those with brain injuries or other severe problems, and they just assumed that was the case with you as well.

For the woman on the elevator, though, there certainly would have been no harm in addressing you directly, even if it so happened that you couldn't talk. People are dumb sometimes.

Jenni said...

Thanks everyone, I appreciate your comments. I'm not trying to isolate the people at the Mall of America. By sharing my stories, my hope is to make people aware and understand.

Dana for Pediatric Home Service said...

What an eye opening post. I'm sure so many wheelchair bound trached patients feel this way. I applaud your efforts in advocacy. I look forward to reading more posts. thanks!

BluEyes said...


I happened upon your blog and started reading your posts and it is awesome what you are doing! I never had a visible disability but have experienced people like you met at the mall. I have a port wine birthmark on my neck and chin and I worked as a cashier briefly at a Cub Foods in St. Anthony, MN. A customer came through my line and politely said, "If you don't mind me asking what happened to your neck?" I said I don't mind it is just a birthmark. The woman put her hand on my arm and said. "At least you are still alive." I was shocked that she would say such a thing and think it was in any way nice.

I am now a single mom raising 4 boys on my own and the most important thing to me is to teach them that we are all human beings and being different is what makes us all special. When my oldest son was diagnosed with Asperger's in 7th grade I asked him if he knew what it was. He said, "Isn't that what Einstein and Mozart had?" I said yes and he was like cool.

Hopefully one day people will start to see each other as humans who are unique and get rid of all the stupid labels society creates.