Keeping Your Shine: Understanding & Managing Misconceptions & Judgments

person in grey hoodie looks over sea/beach

There is a charge

For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge

For the hearing of my heart–

It really goes.

And there is a charge, a very large charge

For a word or a touch

Or a bit of blood

Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.

…I turn and burn.

Do not think I underestimate your great concern.

~Sylvia Plath, Excerpt from Lady Lazarus.

I rode the bus coming home from university, my head deep in a book about Northamptonshirian women brewers in the middle ages (Fast fact: brewing was a wholly female occupation until it became commercially profitable and was taken over by men! Shout out to amazing medievalist Judith M. Bennett for a fascinating history lesson!) It was a lovely moment, and I was in my element: moving with purpose. Reading. Heart full. Feeling well. Happy. Shining.

Suddenly, terrifyingly, I felt a hand on my leg, moving upwards. What was happening? Was this the groping I’d heard was so common on crowded public transport?

Shocked, but indignant, my self-defense training kicked in.

No! STOP. This is MY body and you can’t touch it.

I looked up into the face of…. a grandfatherly man(!) with his hand above my knee.

Oh, I’m sorry my lovely. I hope you don’t mind? I just wanted to see if you could feel.


I wondered, you know, if you’re paralysed, like. You’re so young. Are you? Is that why you’re in the wheelchair?

Though this sort of unwanted attention – intrusive touch, comments – is not oft spoken of, it’s as common as other forms of uncouth stranger-enquiry into the lives of people with disabilities.

Read the rest of the post by our founder Grace Quantock in her column here.

Image courtesy of Patrick Sobczak.