On Nov. 1 I was confronted with some serious swings of emotion. I want to share this story here to comfort anyone else who spends a temporary stretch in a wheelchair
I used my walker to get back and forth to the restroom that day. On my way back to my office, as I walked across the hall, I noticed the young man whom I’ve often ridden the elevator with the last few weeks. He raced his motorized chair toward me and when he was close enough for me to see his expression I realized he was quite astonished and excited.
“Wow! Congratulations! How great! How are you doing?” he said. I hope my face didn’t show that I was fighting tears. I told him about the surgery and how I started therapy and how I would keep going until just before Christmas.
He was happy and gracious. He said he hadn’t realized I was in a chair because of surgery and that he was glad for me. Then I started gushing about if there was anything I can do, how I’m going to be a lot more cognizant if there are push buttons broken or anything that would make things harder and that I would be an advocate if there was anything that needed to be addressed.
It’s weird to feel guilty about being able to use my legs.
I was so touched by his genuine excitement for me. His joy in my achievement. But it was impossible not to be flooded with feelings of all the things he won’t do. He said something to me that I will always remember:
“It shouldn’t be hard. It’s just another way.” I will think about that when I walk around campus, or a park or a store. It shouldn’t be hard. There are laws to make sure it isn’t too hard. But there are things average people can do to make the world less difficult to navigate from a chair.
Restaurants could make sure their silverware is reachable from a chair. This has been a problem for me several times.
Able folks could use a standard stall with they are the only one in the bathroom, rather than the handicapped one. This has happened to me three times in nine weeks. I know they are roomier and that is nice, but they are roomy for a reason.
Large cracks in the sidewalk that should be repaired but haven’t yet been could be spray painted so they never sneak up on someone.
Let’s work together to make sure the world isn’t HARD to navigate for people like Ian. He is right. It should be “just another way.”