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Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Disability Bond Can Be Heartwarming

Yesterday my son and I went to the local grocery store. It is great to have him home for a fews days despite the fact he can drive me crazy. Regardless, we were wandering around the grocery store as I wanted to cook something different and use some coupons. We ended up in the produce section where I saw a young girl and her mother. The girl was about six years old. She was sitting in a high end wheelchair tooling around at break neck speeds and bumping into all sorts of stuff. I was so excited! Sightings of adults using a wheelchair are rare in my area. Sightings of a child that uses an obviously high end wheelchair are unheard of. In fact this was a first in 18 years. I gave the young girl a huge smile. She totally ignored me. Awesome, I thought I am just another adult. I asked the mom about the wheelchair, it was an ultra light wheelchair with what looked like a seat insert. The girls posture was perfect. The wheelchair fitted her perfectly. I was ridiculously excited. For me, with one glance I can tell is a person is in the correct manual wheelchair and is seated properly. This is actually quite complicated and a wheelchair seating specialist can enhance a persons life. I engaged the mom and praised her daughter and her perfect positioning. She seemed quite pleased. As we talked, I was thrilled to see that she let her daughter explore on her own but always within sight. We talked shop a bit--little things about how hands get dirty from pushing all day, what rims might eliminate some dirt. I stated such issues were occupational hazards. She laughed.  It was nothing short of wonderful--just a two or three minute chat with a stranger.

I spent much of the afternoon wondering why I was delighted by this social encounter. Really, I was over the top happy. I realized that I am often in a sense lonely. Where are others like me? Where are the kids with a disability that will grow and become responsible adults? Where are my crippled peers? In this sense I am lonely. Of course I have friends and colleagues that have a disability but they are scattered all over the country. I am weary of always being the only person that uses a wheelchair at a social event. I am tired of being shunted off to an obscure entrance, told to wait while someone mythic person finds the key to a lift. I watched others poured into the building. Does any one else see how wrong this is? No. This is the weakness of so called "reasonable accommodations". I find many "reasonable accommodations" very unreasonable if not deeply objectionable. On bad days I think things will never change. But yesterday was not a bad day. I saw the future. I saw a mom with her daughter that used a wheelchair. I saw a good wheelchair that fit this young girl perfectly. I saw normal human interaction and was part of it! This is what the ADA was designed to do. Insure equality for all people with a disability. In my mind I want to believe the young girl I met goes to the totally accessible local public school. She gets on a bus with her peers. She participates in all class trips. She has many friends and is not taunted by others. She participates in all gym activities. She is included in any after school activity she wishes. The thought of this experience so different from my own makes my heart soar. I hope it is the reality she will experience.


jeneva said...

This post makes me both laugh and cry. Wherever I go, all I can think about is whether or not or how this or that building is accessible. It's second nature now to anticipate how I would get Robert into a building--even if he's not with me. I, too, hate it when I see a building that makes disability access an afterthought. We built our house with a ramp running parallel to the front steps. We installed front steps because we had to give some thought to re-sale value. Guess what? More than half of the people who visit us, including the postman, use the ramp.

william Peace said...

Jeneva, You would think 22 years after the ADA was passed access should be the norm. Yet, like you it is always at the forefront of my thought process. Few if any buildings I encounter consider wheelchair access of central importance. It can be done but rarely is.
When people visit my home, especially when I get a delivery of something that is very heavy people are thrilled to see the ramp. And sadly resale of your home must be factored in. Ramps are not desired. Ironic though they are used so widely.