I and other disabled people have a unique talent. We can transform ourselves into objects. Here are some examples of people instantaneously morphing into things.
When flying, I need help transferring from one gate to another. This is not true for all blind people, but it is what I do. The airport provides someone to do this and they are the people who also push passengers in wheelchairs.
To avail myself of this help, I must wait until someone shows up and usually until the plane is largely empty. If I were waiting along with a man who uses a wheelchair and an older woman needing special help, likely as not you will hear one flight attendant call to another, “How many wheelchairs do we have?”
Now, to be clear, they aren’t asking how many wheelchairs are waiting outside the plane. They are looking for the number of people who need assistance. I get that they are using some sort of short hand, but really? They could ask how many escorts they need or even assists. There are ways to talk about me without me having to become a thing.
Sitting on a bus, I listened as the driver tells everyone waiting to board, “I have to unload a wheelchair.”
Apparently I took snarky pills because I said, “Um, person?” He didn’t reply.
Finally, this happened to a friend who ordered a coffee at a local Starbucks. She did tell the barista her name, so I can’t think why they then wrote on her cup “wheelchair.” Seriously. It said, “Wheelchair.” Was she supposed to pour it on as some kind of new lubricant? Clearly the chair didn’t pay for the coffee…
Indeed, we become objects without acquiring object permanence. As I’m sure you’ve experienced, anyone with a visible disability is every other person in that town with that visible disability. I’ve lived here long enough that I could say, “No I’m not Alicia or Penny or Jane or Suzanne,” but then my interlocutor would get confirmation of their theory that all the wheelchair people know each other.
I once got mistaken for a woman with CP who uses a support cane. That kind of blew my mind. 🙂