Let me just start this by saying I love my daughter to death. I have admired her drive, determination, and strong will from the day she was born. I mean seriously, this child came out of the WOMB knowing exactly what she wanted, and exactly what she DIDN'T want, and was not afraid to let you know. When she was merely hours old she stiff armed my boob, pursed her lips and turned her face to the side, almost as if to say "Woman, if you try and stuff that thing in my mouth one more time I'm gonna knock you the hell out!" My kid doesn't play - disability be damned. And it's made me love and respect her in a way I didn't know was possible. And just when I thought I couldn't possibly have any MORE respect for her than I already did, I acquired a beautiful set of shiny new crutches, and went from being a typically abled mama caring for her kiddo with special needs, to being the one with "special needs". HER needs became not so special because she has always had them, so for us it's just everyday living. Me, on the other hand....totally different story. I needed someone to open doors, to carry my kid, to cook, to do my groceries, to do my LAUNDRY! Luckily, my mom was around to help, but really, I wasn't keen on having to avoid eye contact when she washed my mentionables, my un-mentionables, and my never-mentionables. Just not really my idea of a good time. I'd rather dissect my own spleen.
But here's the thing - I won't be like this forever. Next week I'll have an MRI, a follow up appointment with the orthopedist, and maybe surgery a short time thereafter. At most I'm looking at 8 weeks of awkward laundry conversations. However, for my daughter, and millions like her, this is everyday. I, the "newly special" one,was completely stymied by a curb. I would hobble across a parking lot, only to be stopped dead in my tracks, trying to figure out how I was going to make it onto the sidewalk with crutches. Once I made it onto the sidewalk and to the "pull handle" door of whatever business I was going to, I then had to figure out how the hell I was going to open the door without a: falling over and showing my business, and b: not get smacked in the face with the door as it swung back closed before I was all the way in. Seriously?? Seriously.
I began to think about the children and adults that deal with this on a daily basis. How freaking frustrating! I wonder if they wonder, like I wondered, what the point is of having handicapped parking (sidenote: for some reason i HATE that word..."handicapped"...ugh...makes me cringe) if you're not going to put push button activated doors on your business and flat-floor entryways? DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY TIMES I ALMOST BUSTED MY ASS AGAIN, TRIPPING OVER THOSE FREAKING DOOR STOPS IN ENTRYWAYS???
I know these things seem so miniscule, but really, think about it. I live in Arizona, where Satan and his minions come out to play every summer, scorching the hell out of everything in sight. Door handles = third degree burns. Five minutes in the sun = instant Melanoma. Half an hour and I become the cutest chocolate drop you've ever seen. Okay, so maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but you get my point. It's hotter than Hades here. So imagine you're in a wheelchair, or have to walk and stand with supportive crutches. You make it out of your car, and unlike my ridiculous self you make it up onto the curb. You make it to the door and look for the push button to activate said door. There isn't one. No one is around to open the door from the OUTSIDE, and no one on the INSIDE has noticed you yet. You feel the sweat dripping, but you wait patiently. Time passes, vultures fly overhead and FINALLY someone comes along to let you in. Meanwhile, you've just dropped about ten pounds of water weight (stop pondering this as your new diet plan).
It hardly seems fair, and it hardly makes sense.
But sadly, these are not things that I paid much attention to until I was the one disabled. How sad of me. How ridiculous of me. How self centered of me.
How NORMAL of me.
I doubt anyone who isn't disabled thinks of these things. We take our abilities for granted, without giving pause to things that present as challenges to others. As a mother to a kiddo with special needs, I'm a bit embarrassed and ashamed to admit that it has taken something so ridiculous as spraining my knee while plugging in my cell phone (stop laughing. now.) to open my eyes to this. But in a way, I'm kind of glad that I had to come to these realizations in this way. It will make me a better advocate for my daughter, and for people with special needs everywhere.
I can't trip over my own ignorance anymore.
Now entryways.....that's another story.