At kiddush one day, I was welcoming a visitor to synagogue when she popped the question. “What’s wrong with you?” she asked as her eyes flicked from my face to my wheels. I’ve been asked this question in an astounding array of inappropriate venues; I didn’t flinch. “I have a disability,” I said, though it was plain she’d already noticed. A firm full stop followed that statement, though I knew full well I didn’t answer her question. I’m more than willing to talk about disability, but I’m disinclined to do so while waiting in the buffet line for my salad.

In truth, my answer was something of a lie. What’s wrong with me has more to do with objectification, pity, and disdain than with honest muscle and bone. The primary problem lies in social attitudes, architectural barriers, and cultural conceptions of normalcy that...

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