a·ware·ness– knowledge or perception of a situation or fact; concern about and well-informed interest in a particular situation or development.
“What’s wrong with you (*cringe*)?”
“You should put a motor on that thing.”
“Wow! Your girlfriend must be a saint.”
Approximately 85,000 people in Canada are living with a SCI and I think majority of these individuals will hear something similar to these statements, several times per week. I think this highlights the need for SCI Awareness month; in order to tackle the ‘well-informed interest’ aspect of this definition. Physical barriers (e.g., stairs, high tables) are a real hindrance, but attitudinal barriers exist en masse. If I could have one hope for increasing awareness of SCI this month, it would be for society to recognize that differences are okay. But these differences don’t need to be stared at, pitied, or ostracized (except for the 12-year old boy who told Cam that his handcycle was ‘the illest ride he had ever seen’. We’ll let that one slide). Rather, I would hope that people see persons with a SCI (or others who use mobility aids) as capable, strong, independent humans who are struggling and thriving in life alongside the rest of us. Amongst many other things, Cam and I have camped, biked, travelled, skied, boated and learned to play new instruments within the past year. Yes, we have encountered many difficult scenarios along our adventures, but hey.. our relationship survived! Likely, because ‘I’m an angel’ as the guy sitting behind me on the plane told me…
The next time you see someone in a wheelchair (SCI or not), regardless if they are by themselves, or with their spouse, parents or children—do just that. See them. Realize that they are just another person engaging in an activity, and they don’t need to be ‘othered’. If you see an inter-abled couple, don’t pity the able-bodied half of the relationship. Each half has a vital role to play and we are just out here loving like the rest of you.