Oh, You Think I’m Stupid, Awkward or Rude
Just last week I was in a popular, bustling marketplace full of stool-and-counter eateries serving fast-paced breakfasts for locals and tourists on-the-go; stations preparing savory lunch specials; stands loading the freshest butchery and produce available that morning; and shops offering freshly baked pastries, sugary candies, fancy chocolates, homemade soaps, charming decorations, frivolous baubles, baby gifts and more — nearly anything for any shopper’s delight.
I peered around torsos and handbags to get the closest possible view of my would-be purchases in their glass cases.
I also inevitably interrupted traffic patterns (known only to the annoyed), stood in lines that were of my own making (and as a result led to nowhere), and created massive bouts of anxiety and attitude in those who thought I was either rudely cutting the line or scoping out opportunities to pickpocket.
It’s not fun knowing how negatively people are thinking of you, particularly when you know the basis of their judgement is so off base. It’s also an utter bother to say “Excuse me. I’m legally blind. Would you (a) kindly move so I can get closer to see that thing you’re standing in front of, (b) kindly not randomly stand around so it’s clear where the line begins or (c)kindly stop telling me I should get new glasses when I’m holding something very close to my eyes “ to every person encountered in that kind of situation.
The experience was a sad reminder of other stories of the not rude, not awkward and not stupid.
Like Pamela, whose constant tripping when walking and falling upstairs earned her the labels of clumsy and careless by her family and friends. She was later diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Or Erik, who learned his pal Lydia thought he was either socially awkward or rude because he didn’t look her in the eye and she always had to say hi to him first. Years after beginning their friendship, Lydia learned Erik was visually-impaired.
Or Alex, whose poor academic performance resulted in fellow students calling her stupid and teachers advising her parents that she wouldn’t amount to much. After her dyslexia was diagnosed, she excelled in school and has a successful career as a lawyer.
Conversely, as I was en route to lecture at a collegiate course on “design thinking” — where the students were learning to create a universally-accessible world with a special focus on issues for the visually-impaired — I was glad for the hot-off-the-presses fodder offering ways NOT to accomplish that task. The legacy of that experience seems to be that many of the students, so-called normal themselves, were influenced to be more thoughtful with their own judgements of rude, awkward and stupid. I hope they are in the marketplace the next time I’m there!
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