I am visibly disabled using either crutches, a manual or power wheelchair as my disability fluctuates.
I find the sexual harassment and non consensual touching varies depending on which mobility aid I am using.
When I use the crutch it tends to be members of the public grabbing the top of my arm or shoving me in the back (mainly quite forcefully and physically pushing and pulling me) to get me out of the way – often as they say excuse me, not after, or giving me chance to move – as though that makes it ok. In fact this pushing me often makes me stumble. Also lots of people barge past me in ways they wouldn’t dare do to non visibly disabled people
To try to show support or they are “woke and disabled inclusive ” they will often put their arm around me or rub the top of my back – again without permission. In effect using me as a prop to show how “good” they are either to themselves or others.
In a manual chair, I have on many many multiple occasions had people just grab my chair and move me. In one case I was sitting in my chair on a pavement waiting for my friends car and a man literally just grabbed my chair and wheeled me across the road to “help” despite my shouts for help and that I didn’t even want to cross the road. I genuinely thought I was being kidnapped. He was completely baffled when I wouldn’t stop shouting and telling him to get the hell off me and was really angry at me for not “appreciating his help” and called me an ungrateful bitch and said fuck you cripple to me.
In my powerchair I have been followed and stalked by men catcalling me saying stuff like you are too pretty to be in a wheelchair, offering to give me an unwanted “sympathy shag” although in public the unwanted touching tends to be less than when on crutches or manual wheelchairs. When I have reported the stalking or street harassment- people don’t believe you or witnesses think it’s hilarious and I should be flattered because society views us disabled people as non sexual / non desirable (completely erasing the power dynamics at play).
Criminologist and Co-Director of Centre for Gender Studies at University of Sussex