Oftentimes, I find myself trying to prove who I am to others. I realize that it’s important to understand that it shouldn’t matter what people think of you, but in my situation, it’s everything. All my life, it’s basically been the same story when it comes to meeting new people or encountering a stranger. They’re not exactly sure how to treat me.

I usually end up in these more than awkward situations where someone’s misjudgments become painfully embarrassing for me. Recently, I was at this restaurant and I asked the waitress for a Shirley Temple. Okay, yes, Shirley Temples are popular with little kids, but, every 22 year old is entitled to one every now and then. Am I right? Well anyway, the waitress takes my order and comes back with my drink…in a sippy cup. A sippy cup!! You know, like those little plastic cups with a cover and a spout for toddlers to drink out of? Wait, let me stress that for you…toddlers. She put my drink into a sippy cup. You’ve got to be kidding me! Maybe she thought it would have been easier for me, but let’s be honest, a straw would have sufficed. If I actually needed a sippy cup, I could have requested one in the beginning. Instead, I endured incessant jokes coming from my brother and the never-ending stares from the restaurant patrons for the rest of my meal.

Unfortunately, these types of situations happen to me all the time. Why? Well, I’m really not sure. People see my wheelchair and automatically form all sorts of assumptions in their minds. They think I don’t have any friends, or that I’m not smart, or that I need a sippy cup. It’s extremely frustrating at times, especially since none of this is even close to the truth. They fail to recognize the person I really am which is why I have always felt the need to validate myself as an individual.

Yes, everyone is different. And yes, I consider myself to be very lucky to be able to have some sort of independence and control in my life. But I often wonder…why are most people so quick to judge? Are they afraid to say the wrong thing? What’s holding them back exactly? On behalf of myself and everyone else confined to a wheelchair, we have feelings, and we deserve to be treated with the same respect as everyone else. Our wheelchairs are only there to help us get from one place to another. They don’t define who we are.

I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t judge a book by its cover. Sounds so cliché, I know. But, just take a moment and actually think about that statement. Disability or not, everyone deserves a chance. The next time you find yourself jumping to conclusions about someone, take a step back. That person just might really surprise you.

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