This is the 4th post in a series of posts about my recovery from complications from spinal surgery. And I have looked at the world from a very new perspective as someone who is dealing with a disability right now. I have discovered this:
The world is a very hostile place if you are not an able-bodied individual.
Things that no one gives second thoughts to suddenly become obstacles if you’re not able bodied. Cracks in sidewalks, doors, rugs on the floor, low toilets, small bathroom stalls, curbs — just to name a few.
It seems to me that there are so many places that really have no interest in accommodating people with disabilities; rather, they check a required box. They have the required number of parking spaces, but no real concern about the condition of the parking space or the condition of the parking lot. Potholes, uneven pavement, or cracked and ruddy pavement are just some of the issues I’ve encountered trying ti navigate my walker from a handicapped parking space to the entrance of a business. Entrances often have ramps; sometimes there are ramps from handicapped spaces to the sidewalk, sometimes not. The problem I see often with ramps is that they are steep. I’m not sure I’ve encountered a ramp I could actually push myself up while in my wheelchair, they are all so steep. Getting in through a doorway is also a challenge while in a wheelchair. Many entryway thresholds have some sort of lip that is difficult to roll over on your own, and when someone else is pushing, I have been nearly pitched out of my chair when someone tries to go at ramming speed to get over the hump.
Trying to go shopping is frustrating. Many retail stores try to cram so much merchandise onto their floor that it can be an exercise in futility to try to navigate the store. One store I visited was incredibly crammed to the point that my wheelchair could not fit between displays. Others are not any better even if I am using my walker.
I have been some places that have been very hard to walk because of their flooring choices. Textured flooring, uneven flooring, incredibly slippery flooring — all dangerous or requiring great exertion to walk across.
Public bathrooms can be among the most ridiculous. I have been in bathroom stalls that are supposed to be accommodating for people with disabilities but were so small that once you got yourself wheeled in the stall in your wheelchair, you had no way to turn around, no way to lock the door behind you (unless you backed into the stall), and no way to get out of the wheelchair and get to the toilet. I have been in bathrooms where there is only one grab bar behind the toilet or where the grab bars are loose. Even something as simple as placement of paper towels and sinks is problematic. Many public bathrooms have sinks and paper towels or hand dryers so far apart from each other that I have to walk several steps — with my wet hands on the walker handles (or using my wet hands to wheel myself to dry my hands).
Of course, businesses are allowed to design their businesses as they see fit — they can choose their own flooring, design their own displays, or maintain their grounds and parking areas as they see fit. But they should realize that they may be losing some business from people who simply can’t find a way to navigate their way to or through that business.
None of these things ever once crossed my mind while my body was working in a typical fashion. But now that I am forced to experience the world from a completely different perspective, I have discovered that most of the world doesn’t really seem very concerned about making that world easy for those with disabilities to exist in.
Quick side note: something else I have discovered, though, is that people can be very kind. I have had people of all ages voluntarily offer to hold doors for me or clear a path for me or find me someplace to sit that is easy to get to. I am deeply appreciative of each of those kindnesses when they are shown to me. I just wish that I didn’t need to rely on those kindnesses to open a door.