Sunday, October 4, 2015

Getting used to it

Our Wheelchaired For A Day project in August gave me a well needed fresh perspective. For the people we asked to wheel around for twenty for hours it was a new experience. Many things were upsetting, some were frustrating. Some participants felt a new type of helplessness they were never faced with before. From getting around, to people's reactions and the limitations of having two hands and four wheels they came back often inspired an amazed. As they described some of their experiences and things they struggled with, they were eager and excited. It was a revelation to them. Rolling around is hard. Outdoors is rarely flat. People can be patronizing. Bathrooms are hard to navigate. Using a wheelchair is a workout. Some places are not all that accessible. A wheelchair can have a mind of its own. I nodded and I smiled, thinking to myself- this is what I've been experiencing all my life, I hardly even notice. A week ago I was faced with a broken wheelchair lift to the auditorium on campus. And I must say, that if it wasn't for my Director of Communications Susan who started an email campaign about it on the phone I would have probably not done anything about it myself. I would have probably said, these types of things happen, what can you do- elevators break down. I would have probably made sure that the manager knew about it but then expressed my frustration and gone home. It was  simply not meant to be. The malice of inanimate objects. I'd need to find another way to entertain myself. But then I started  to realize, that somewhere in the process of becoming thick skinned and understanding I started making excuses for other people. I begun to settle. I started accepting limitations far beyond the ones that my wheelchair puts on me. Some things are not "all right" because they are simply "not OK" regardless of how new you are to the wheelchair experience. There are things that I must get angry over today, tomorrow, ten years later, although it might be more comfortable and easy to just let it slide. I know I've said before that if I got angry over every single thing that happens to be  I'd be fueled by emotion every day. Somewhere in there you need to find balance. But if I don't get upset over things that I see, who will? Where will the change come from if I choose to look the other way? And what point have I reduced myself to practically apologizing for my own existence? Letting things go, getting used to them because otherwise they would heat up goes against how I was raised and what I was taught. There are no medals for just being patient, learning to accept the status quo, biting your tongue and doing nothing. So perhaps instead of thinking "Oh, they're new to this, naive, they'd learn if they had to do it longer" I should be more like them, frustrated, taking note, seeing and thinking. In that way this experiment was a learning experience not only for them but also for me. Maybe I should get back what I have so obviously lost?

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