We walk down the street for a few hundred feet before it happens. A girl lunges at my friend, and her mother quickly pulls her away telling her that my friend's eyes are working, and are not a toy. She walks away angrily, dismissing her mom and my friend as just adults hiding a toy from her.
The rest of the walk to the metro station is uneventful. I still haven't noticed all the stares directed towards us. Stares are normal for me, especially if I'm carrying a bag or I'm having a bad day, a mix of Arab heritage and mental illness. We get onto the subway and automatically someone rises to give my friend a seat while glaring at me. We change trains and I walk in front, off the platform and into the crowd. My friend follows me, the glares follow us both. But, it's not until the elevator that the glares really start to bother me. I realize that they are not glares, at all. They are symphonies of anger and frustration, directed towards me. Now I notice them everywhere; as we walk into the elevator, out of the elevator, as I don't hold the door open for my friend, as we walk outside, as... They are everywhere, and the streets are filled with the same symphony from Cambridge to Boston, dwelling in the Commons in a merciless tune of vengeance.
"It's interesting," I finally say as we walk down Park. "They don't just stare, they don't just glare. I feel that they hate me."
"Why do you think that is?" she asks, and I know that she's lived this day a hundred thousand times in her 30 years.
"At first I thought it was because I wasn't helping you, and they think that you need help. As if saying how dare you allow a helpless blind woman walk around the streets of Boston on her own."
We're at our building, and the doors are all in our way so we don't speak for a few moments as we manuever inside .
"But it's more than that. It's not just because I'm not helping you, it's almost as if they're blaming me for allowing you to be outside. Like how dare I allow someone like you out of the house. Am I Insane? How could I do such a thing."
We're both silent now because we both know this is true, they don't hate me because of chivalry, or because of her perceived ability. It's because of her disability and what that makes her to the majority of people. Because people like her should not be out on the streets. People like my friend should be locked up in a house, away from sharp objects. People like her should not be alive.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is ableism.
This evening, on my way to the airport, our Uber driver dropped my friend off first. Afterward, after refusing my friends eyes at first, and then explaining himself for a good ten minutes, he asked how much my friend could see. He said it's not possible that she could carry her own things inside on her own. He was ignorant, but kind, and asked many questions about guide dogs and assistive technology. But, no one should wait for my friend, or I, or anyone else to come justify the existence of individuals with disabilities.
People are people. Ability does not justify our existence, just like race, sex, gender, orientation, and everything else doesn't. It's that simple. If you do not understand, educate yourself, and if you do understand, than educate others. Why we need to educate on the very basic justification of human existence is beyond me, but unfortunately it's needed.
Ahmad Abojaradeh is the Co-Founder of Muslim Community Link, An Engineer, a world traveler, a Peer Support Specialist, a Novelist and the founder and editor of Life in My Days. He hopes to spread awareness of living a life of wellness through his writing, workshops and speaker events. Follow Ahmad on twitter, instagram or facebook.