Mercedes González Amade
HAVANA TIMES — I am disabled. Due to health problems, I am forced to move around on a wheelchair and don’t know how long I will be confined to it.
I am young and I like to have fun, but, sometimes, simply going out turns into a battle against incomprehension, inhumanity and, most of all, people’s lack of sensitivity towards other human beings.
Disabled persons have certain social privileges: priority seats in all means of public transportation, a fifty-percent discount on all air or land transportation, and others, but such considerations aren’t everything.
What’s most important is people’s sensitivity, a quality that has been gradually fading away. You see evidence of this every day.
In buses, it has become more common for women to give up their seats to me than for men to do it. If I need any kind of assistance, an elderly person offers to help me more quickly than a young person.
I have to have all five senses, and an extra one, on the alert to avoid people in a rush, those distracted by a cell phone, MP3 player or any electronic device, and pretty much anyone moving close to me.
Many of these people don’t have the common courtesy to apologize when they run into you, or the decency to ask themselves whether I need any kind of assistance. They look at you like a weirdo, with a look that says “that will never happen to me.”
When I get on the bus, I notice that most people forget, neglect or simply don’t care about the fact that we do not all have the same abilities. They shove me and step on me, and the bus driver’s sudden stops are a real nightmare.
When a disabled person dares complain about something, they sometimes receive hurtful and even offensive replies.
There are people who do not think about aging, that their faculties will begin to decline with the passage of time, that a simple fall can give their lives a 180-degree turn and change it radically.
They don’t think about their grandparents, a friend who is ill, a helpless child – anyone can be in need of help at a given moment in time.
One never knows when one will face a situation that puts one’s humanity to the test, one’s willingness to help others and respect those who are different, but also human.