PSA: Please Don’t Crawl Over People in Wheelchairs

Last night, I had an amazing time dancing my stress away at the Bomba Esteréo concert at The Filmore. Bomba Estereo blew up in the US last year with their song, Soy Yo, a song about loving yourself the way you are and paying no mind to the haters. It’s super catchy and I’m sure you’ve heard it -- and if not, you’ve at least seen the young gordita with several ponytails, rocking jean overalls with giant plastic glasses from the ’90s. If you had to wear glasses in the ’90s (raises hand) you know that life. Bomba Esteréo is just one of the many artists from Colombia that I’m obsessed with. I even booked my 33rd birthday in Santa Marta, Colombia to enjoy the amazing hometown of Liliana Saumet and Carlos Vives (#VallenatoForLife).

Blame it on the #POCTime, but after my friends and I waited in a ridiculously long line, we finally spotted a space at the end of the bar where there was enough room to dance. Perfect! Making our way through the crowd,  I spot a man near the stage facing the crowd and dancing his ass off wearing a black beanie with the word “QUEEN” on it. “Yass,” I thought, “Do you, Mr. Security Guy!” He was so into it that I started watching him instead of the show! After a while,  it dawned on me that he was an ASL interpreter and was signing the songs as Bombe performed! What?! Never in my life had I seen that and I got super excited and recorded some of him.

Apart from Mr. Queen, I loved that Bomba had made an effort to create space for people with disabilities. Directly in front of me and my friends, there was a gap of space reserved for a man in a wheelchair and several deaf people, separated by a few highchairs. Unfortunately, not many people got the message that this space wasn’t reserved for them. For example:  here I am, minding my “this-is-my-workout-lets-get-it” business, when I see a dude in an ugly ass black paisley shirt with drinks in his hands, literally pushing through the highchair separators and through the man in the wheelchair! This dude had one leg on the wheelchair hand-rest as he was trying to literally crawl over the man, while keeping his drink intact. He thought he could push through the highchairs (that someone was sitting in) and the PERSON in the chair. The people accompanying the man in the wheelchair were telling him off and the dude was super frustrated that his entire body couldn’t fit or push through. I could not believe my eyes and was in full shock when he gave up and turned around to leave. A few people cussed him out and I just couldn’t believe that he had invaded that man’s space and literally SAT ON HIS CHAIR/ON HIM like he wasn’t there.

I guess you might need some context for my rage.

This summer, I had the pleasure of meeting and working with Ola Ojewumi, a badass woman of color who is unapologetic about her disabilities and is working to empower young people with disabilities by helping them get into and pay for college. She opened my eyes to just how much people in wheelchairs are asked stupid questions.“Were you born like that?” “OMG, what happened to you?” Even bullshit like the time she was at Starbucks and a white woman placed $20 on her lap without saying anything. “What the  f*ck? What did you do,” I asked, my jaw on the floor. Keep in mind that Ola is fashionable AF, carries herself with pride, and is always gorgeous with her hair, nails, and makeup done to perfection I share this because I’m not sure what you think of when I say a person in a wheelchair so I’m painting you a new picture. Anyways, I digress. “What did you do?!” Ola replied, “I mean I just couldn’t believe it but by the time I realized what happened, she was gone. So I kept the money and bought the coffee I was going to buy anyways!” I laughed so hard, but you know what?Good for her. Don’t assume sh!t about people in wheelchairs, or anyone with visible disabilities and definitely don’t ask them offensive questions or treat them in a way you wouldn't want to be treated. It is really that simple, people

Now, back to my rage story.

The rest of the night, disgraceful-ass groups of people, couples, friends, and drunks kept trying the same maneuver of pushing through the man in the wheelchair -- even if it meant CRAWLING OVER HIM. At one point, three drunk girls pushed past me and the head drunk crawled over the man to record and dance to the show. I think her other friends sobered up real quick to  call her back, once they could see how livid we were. Forget a polite “excuse me” or “pardon me” -- these fools kept on with their shenanigans. After that, I tried to stop people from passing, but where there’s a drunk, there is probably another way.

The next asshole of the night was the white dude (I didn’t think there’d be any wypipo at the show!). This white dude had been dancing behind us the entire night, but towards the end of the night, decided he wasn’t close enough. So he went around us and pushed through the man in the wheelchair and STRADDLED his legs over the man to reach his friends.

Like, what in the “were-you-raised-by-wolves-because-that-was-trash” was he thinking?!?

Ugh, so much trash in this world and so little time. Even if I was drunk, I would have never disrespect anyone like that. I could not believe it and I was enraged but not as much as the man’s crew! I was really trying to enjoy the show but every time some ass-wipe was gunning for that “gap” by the front, I was reminded that people are trash and that people with disabilities deal with so much shit every day and we have no idea.

People with disabilities are human beings.
People with disabilities are human beings.
People with disabilities are human beings.
People with disabilities are human beings.
People with disabilities are human beings.
People with disabilities are human beings.

People with disabilities are human beings. They deserve your respect and to live with dignity. If I was annoyed by the whole thing, how do you think that man felt? Do you think he enjoyed the show? Maybe, but either way, no one deserves to have their personal space invaded, their property touched, sat on without permission or treated like they don’t exist! It wasn’t just a chair that you could move out of the way, there is a whole person sitting there and they are not invisible.

I write this still fuming that people do that, that I didn’t do more, and that such a beautiful show was now tainted. So I want to take this time to say PLEASE DON’T CRAWL OVER A PERSON IN A WHEELCHAIR!

Doris Quintanilla