Mary Keating


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Until you don't care
what everyone else thinks
always smile—
it protects against pity.

Watch for the smallest
deviations in your path.
If you fail to pay attention,
they will pitch you out
onto the ground
to lie helpless
for what seems like eternity
until you get moving again.

Opt for solid, sensible tires
so sudden spikes in the road
will have no effect.

Expect your personal space
to be invaded,
especially at airport security
where you will be legally molested.

Prepare for your privacy to be invaded.
Strangers feel entitled to ask you
the most personal of questions.
Make up a few fantastical stories
about why you are in a wheelchair
and practice saying them with a straight face.

Don't worry about what you're wearing.
Wheelchairs have a magical power
to make you invisible
(but be sure to cover your ass).

Treasure those who treat you
like everyone else
instead of as an inspiration
or an inconvenience.

Get used to isolation,
but keep trying to connect.
The world is still learning
the value of inclusion architecture.
Just your presence in it
creates change.

Prepare to confuse;
ableists will think you have
every disability
and treat you like a child,
or speak loudly and
ever so slowly to you if
they address you at all.

Just don't forget to smile.
Best to be underestimated
and keep the joke to yourself.


Mary Keating's been a wheelchair user since 1973. Other poems and stories written by her are published in New Mobility Magazine and on Mary received her BA, cum laude, from Manhattanville College in English and Religion. She’s a graduate of Yale Law School and has her own law firm in Darien, CT. Currently, Mary lives in Connecticut with husband, Dan and their black lab. She hopes you enjoy her poem.