Before my injury I used to think that people in wheelchairs couldn’t do anything.
After moving back to Venezuela, my dad gave me my first car, it was a Mercedes Benz 300. I loved that car, it had so much power, I was always speeding. The rumors of me speeding would always get to my dad and family, they always worried about me. I remember my Nonna (grandmother) always telling me, “Stop speeding. The problem is not that you crash and die, because if you die, well, that’s it. The problem is ending up in a wheelchair for life – and not being able to do anything.”
Well, it wasn’t a car accident, rather a gunshot that resulted in my injury. Now I use a wheelchair and live an independent life.
After I got injured I wouldn’t dare to even take a shower without help. I had this image that people in wheelchairs couldn’t do anything because that’s what I always heard and it’s what I believed at the time. The first time that I took a shower by myself changed everything. I started to try new things and discovered that I could do things that I never imagined I could do. Things that I had always heard people say I couldn’t do.
While I was living in Miami, I was invited multiple times to attend a Miami Heat Wheelchair Basketball practice, but I never took it seriously. I had the idea that people in wheelchairs were going to be a negative influence in my life. I thought that I was different, because I was completely independent – and I still had the perception that other people in wheelchair couldn’t do anything.
It took me more than a year to show up at my first practice. I decided to go because I met two guys that played with the team and they had great attitudes, and because it was “basketball”, one of my favorite sports growing up as a kid.
When I rolled into that gym I felt a great vibe, I saw people doing stuff that I never imagined somebody in a wheelchair could do.[Tweet “I started to practice with these guys and soon realized how wrong I was, for judging them without even knowing them.” via @reboundthefilm]
Society have created this misperception of people in wheelchairs and this was the point of view I had before giving myself the opportunity to show up to a practice and meet these group of amazing guys.
These ideologies are alive, they segregate and classify people, when in reality we are all the same.
A few weeks ago, I went to a Construction Field Operation class, part of my graduate studies at the University of Texas Arlington, and the teacher assistant told me that I was in the wrong class. He probably thought “This guy can’t be a civil engineer.” He kept insisting that I was in the wrong class until I showed him my name on the list. This isn’t the first time I’ve felt judged. I experience these kinds of things often.
A lot of people have the same misperceptions that I used to have, and they don’t make an effort to know someone before jumping to conclusions. The few people that do take the time to get to know me are often amazed. I have had people confess how badly they had underestimated me before knowing me, and truthfully it doesn’t bother me. I’ve been in their position and I thought the same way, what matters is that their perceptions transformed and they realized their first impressions were wrong.
A wheelchair doesn’t define an individual, people need to look further than that, there are many other qualities that each of us have. We should always take the time to get to know someone before believing in what society has instilled in us. The transformation of thoughts from false assumptions to reality is very important. Not only we can learn about others, but we can also learn about ourselves and our society.
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