Push your disabled friends out of their comfort zones this Christmas!
Seasons greetings! It is Christmas season! A time to love and be loved, to share, to care and most importantly, to celebrate the year that was. Even at my age, I still get excited about the festivities because I feel like in these times, hearts are softened, and minds opened. Disagreements are momentarily put aside, and toxicity put on hold. It is all about the frequency of love and It takes a special kind of person to ruin Christmas. I bet you can feel the rawness of my excitement from wherever you are.
As a paralyzed young man, I have had to work hard on myself to get to a point where I can truly enjoy the festivities. The first years after the accident were marred by nerve pain and discomfort. I couldn’t stay up late, I couldn’t eat chapatis because I had no muscle in my jaws. My mum had to dice nyama choma and feed it to me using a spoon, and I couldn’t hold a bottle of soda. As much as I wanted to enjoy Christmas, my body just couldn’t let me. This was hard for me to accept because I was 20 at the time and my mind was telling me to burn the midnight oil chatting with my estranged cousins.
As I became stronger over the years, the people around me still saw me as a delicate young man who couldn’t take cold drinks in the evening for fear of pneumonia or have hot pepper in his food because delicate people don’t roll like that. I didn’t blame them for seeing me in that light, I couldn’t. They had arrived at those conclusions based on how I presented myself. You could be depressed on the inside but if you appear to be happy, those closest to you will associate you with happiness. I wanted to participate more and be where everyone was, but I was still frail-looking and eating chapati still made me run out of air.
At some point, I started believing that maybe that part of my life had gone stale. Maybe people on wheelchairs aren’t meant to go out for Christmas eve raves, maybe our place is back at home, in the warmth of our beds and our parents embrace. No one seemed to think otherwise so I gladly stepped back and sat with the old people. Looking back at those days, it was pure complacency on my side. I didn’t know any better.
Disabled people are often exempted from plans that involve fun activities. This exemption doesn’t always come from a bad place, like I said, it is usually because of conclusions that have been arrived upon either from perception or stereotypes. The general feeling is usually that a disabled person might not enjoy crowds, being in public or getting out of our comfort zones. The truth, however, is that we would like to get more involved, we just need a little nudge and support.
This Christmas do not assume that your disabled cousin or friend won’t enjoy a night out or an impromptu road trip. Call them up, convince them to join and really show them that you want them there. Sometimes we fail to attend because we never got the invitation. Feeling like we are not included is something that most disabled people struggle with. More so, those of us who are still in our youth. Comradely is invaluable to any young person. There is a need to feel like we are a part of a larger group of people we can relate to. If we don’t get that, we can easily get lost in our solitude.
I believe that it only takes one moment to change an individual’s mentality. I had no real belief in myself in terms of participating in fun outdoor activities. Being on a wheelchair and all, I instinctively sat back and observed as the rest had fun. That was until my cousins took me to a Go-kart racing two years ago. It was dusty, sunny, bumpy; it was unlike anything I had experienced in the last six years and that is what made it fun. I was doing something away out of my comfort zone. With the help of my cousin, I drove the little vehicle round the circuit and when I was done, my heart was pumping so fast I felt like I could do anything. You have the power to have the same effect on someone this Christmas.
From Stairs To Ramps: Inclusion And Its Effect On Self advocacy