Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The bus stops and the girl climbs on board. The girl doesn’t mind having to stand near the open window. She feels as if she might melt. Children cry as their ice-creams form a sticky puddle on their laps. An old man reads the newspaper. The women on the bus gossip about Bill and Monica. As time passes the other passengers loose interest in their conversations and begin to look around them. They all stare at the girl. Some smile. Some sneer. Others just continue to stare.

The journey continues. Passengers get off the bus. Passengers get on. It doesn’t matter. They all stare. Some even whisper to their friends. Still the girl stands silently. At times the comments get so loud and so rude that the girl wishes she could go and punch the people in the mouth. But she knows she can’t. She must be silent. Invisible. It makes her blood boil faster than lava, but she is helpless.

At the next stop the people that climb on the bus are friendly and start a conversation with the girl.
‘Hot today isn’t it?’
‘Yeah’ says the girl.
It has been too long for this. There are too many forgotten years. The girl just smiles at the people until the bus begins to slow. As the girl gets off the bus she overhears a conversation between two children.
‘That lady standing by the window looked funny’
‘I’m glad we ignored her, she scared me.’
That’s the story of my life thinks the girl as she walks away in her walking frame.

The girl in the story has Cerebral Palsy. Cerebral Palsy is a disorder of muscle control which results from some damage to part of the brain. It can affect people in many different ways, which can be both mental and physical or either mental or physical. For example, in my case my legs and my right arm are affected by the Cerebral Palsy but I am lucky and have not been affected mentally by the Cerebral Palsy. Others are not so lucky. They may be so severely affected by the Cerebral Palsy that they are unable to go to school or care for themselves in any way.

It doesn’t really matter how a person with Cerebral Palsy is affected by the disorder most people are treated by society in much the same way. (Having said this, however I do not mean that all people treat people with Cerebral Palsy this way.) Some people seem to think that a person with any kind of disability has a mental disability. This is a common assumption with Cerebral Palsy because more than half of the world’s Cerebral Palsy sufferers are affected mentally by the disorder.

However there are many organisations (such as Interchange and Yorralla) in Australia that can help sufferers of Cerebral palsy (or any other disability) to gain independence. These organisations can help people with many skills including personal care, shopping, and meal preparation and can also provide personal assistants who can help a disabled person to gain an education. The services these organisations provide are vital to the life of a disabled person because they enable the disabled person to have a “normal” life and attend school or work and also be involved in the community. To be considered “normal” by today’s society means to be accepted by today’s society. Acceptance is what we all crave and these organisation’s help a disabled person to gain some acceptance but there is a long way to go before total acceptance of a disabled person is achieved. This is illustrated by the reaction of the passengers on the bus when they realised the girl standing near the window was disabled. Not many of the passengers on the bus would talk to the girl who was standing by the window in her walking frame. The only people who would talk to the girl came on the bus towards the end of the journey and then had difficulty making conversation with the girl. If the girl was not disabled the passengers on the bus may not have had any trouble making conversation with the girl. The girl also had trouble making conversation with the other passengers on the bus. The fact that the narrator of the story suggests that “it has been too long for this. There are too many forgotten years.” Suggests that like many other disabled people the girl is so used to being treated badly that she does not know how to react when people are nice to her. These kinds of problems can make disabled people feel even more alienated from the rest of the world. The best way to overcome this problem is to educate the ‘normal’ people of the world in order to try and make them understand that disabled people are just people who may take a little longer than a ‘normal’ person to achieve some of their goals. If we can do this then maybe the ‘normal’ people will be more accepting of the disabled and then we can all live in harmony.

I would like to remind all the ‘normal’ people out there that it’s not what’s on the outside that counts but what’s on the inside. So as a final reminder from my pearls of wisdom as some great literary person said ‘don’t judge a book by its cover.’