I was minding my own business when men in suits decided to interrupt me on the way to the bank. I surprised myself.
Walking down Swanston Street past the State Library, the sun reflected off the footpath, making it difficult to see. Someone had set up a sandwich board and another stand partially blocking the footpath. People were standing around and walking in various directions at various speeds. I was stressed because I was trying to navigate all these hazards and I had a bit over an hour to open a bank account.
From my left a male voice imperiously demanded, “Do you read Braille?”
I was stunned. I stopped and looked to my left. I saw a white male with grey hair in a light shirt, dark jacket and stripy tie staring at me.
A few months ago I tried to leave JB HiFi but the security guard detained me. She wasn’t checking my bags. She felt entitled to ask all sorts of personal questions about my disability before she allowed me to leave the store. “How much vision have you lost?” and “Why don’t you get a guide dog?” are just two of the questions I felt compelled to answer before she allowed me to leave the store. I was furious. Days later the perfect response came to me: “How much weight have you gained? Why don’t you join a gym?”
Today I looked at this man who felt entitled to interrogate me without so much as a “hello”. He didn’t seem overweight. Damn. My mouth was already in motion. I surprised myself.
“How would you feel if I pulled you up in the street and asked ‘What’s it like being an arrogant arsehole?'”
Another guy in a suit to his right burst out laughing.
I walked away with my head held high.
Recently Helen Garner wrote about the Insults of Age for The Monthly. The difference with having a disability is that imperious discrimination and superior entitlement affects people with disabilities no matter their age. I’ve had enough and I’m starting to speak up. Thank you, Helen, for your inspirational article.