Nothing literal about seeing eye-to-eye

Captain Claus Andersen with me on board Anthem of the Seas while crossing the Atlantic last year.

Captain Claus Andersen with me on board Anthem of the Seas while crossing the Atlantic last year.

Amazed, bewildered and downright exasperated. Those are the feelings that dominate my thoughts as they prompt me to speak out through this blog. As regular readers know, I have severe mobility problems due to multiple sclerosis but this is about anyone who has to rely on a wheelchair.

Now, everyone who has a physical disability knows they can expect that some people they meet will speak to their attendant or carer rather than them. Some people do have that unfortunate tendency to not look down to the person in the wheelchair but, instead, talk to the standing assistant.

I have no idea how other people in my position choose to handle that but in my case it is quite easy. As my carer is also my wife, Lisa, we work as a team. If she asks a question, I expect her to receive the answer- no problem. But if the enquiry is made by me, the answer needs to be directed to me. To be fair, in my experience, this is how most people do react.

However, if someone does try to answer my question by directing his or her reply to Lisa, we let that person finish before I answer – probably adding that it would be polite if, in future, he or she could look at the person who had made the enquiry.

The feelings mentioned at the beginning of this post don’t come, however, from a person in a wheelchair thinking he is being not treated properly. Instead they come from my reaction to another person’s over sensitive view of a picture. Let me explain.

The other day I posted a blog (to read it, click this link about being aboard Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas on its transatlantic voyage last October and November, and paid tribute to the captain, Claus Andersen, for his coolness in command during the storms we encountered.

Lisa and I happened to meet the captain one day and I took the opportunity to ask if he would pose for a picture with me. He readily agreed, suggested a location and wheeled me there himself. He then called over a crew member to take the picture with my camera.

There was NO problem. I was not ignored in any way. We had a good conversation.

BUT someone seeing the picture – the one above – said the captain had not learned how to treat people in wheelchairs. He maintained that the captain should have crouched down to bring our heads to the same level.

What utter balderdash. Do you see tall people crouch to the height of a shorter person? Of course not!

If anybody did that to me, I’d feel demeaned and patronised. Yes, I am in a wheelchair but, where possible, treat me as you would any other person; treat me as an equal. I might need a wheelchair space or to use a ramp but please don’t be condescending by crouching to my level.

The expression ‘seeing eye-to-eye’ does not mean literally.


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