There was a playground a block away from the rehabilitation centre. Like most kids, our boys couldn’t find their socks in the morning but could spot a park from a mile away. One afternoon when they came to visit, they begged for us to take them. I was hesitant—I thought about letting Ian take them on his own—but I went. I expected to feel left out—what use could I be at a playground?—but I wasn’t prepared for the harsh realization that hit as soon as we arrived.
Today, December 3, is International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The theme for 2018 is about empowering people with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality. It’s a tall order for just one day. I’ve been somewhat privileged since my injury to be in a bubble of inclusiveness. I’m surrounded by family and friends who make it a priority to include me. I have a husband who does everything in his power to make sure I experience all that I can. I have this blog that is followed by people who take an interest in disability, accessibility and equality. But lately I am seeing through my bubble. I am noticing how foreign disability still is to so many who don’t have personal experience with it. I am noticing how quickly my concerns are ignored and how accessibility issues are disregarded. I am noticing how much work still needs to be done.
I’m just waiting for someone.
I was only gone for five minutes.
I’ll move if somebody comes who needs it.
These are just a few of the excuses used to justify illegally parking in a handicapped parking spot. Out of all the things I expected to struggle with when I was told I would never walk again, parking my car was not one of them. And yet, here I am. And I am frustrated. I am frustrated with the lack of accessible parking and with the people who don’t think they are causing a problem by abusing the spots that exist. I am tired of people using tags that don’t belong to them, tags that are expired or no tag at all. I’m not a confrontational person and I do like to give people the benefit of the doubt by thinking that they are unaware of how crucial these spots are for the people that need them. So here is my attempt at spreading some awareness.
Spinal cord injury awareness month is still on my mind. My last post talked about the aspects of SCI that I struggle with the most: bladder and bowel control. But I was thinking about what awareness really means and how shining a spotlight on only the challenges can draw focus from the accomplishments and the awesome lives people with SCI are living – it can skew people’s perceptions. And while I think it is incredibly important for everyone to understand the struggles and barriers that someone with a spinal cord injury comes up against, it is equally important to understand that so many of us choose to face those challenges because we still want to live our lives – spinal cord injury and all. There is happiness, adventure and so many amazing things still possible and bringing awareness to SCI means showcasing that as well.
Have you ever been unable to get to your car because the elevator that brought you up from the parkade is now out of service? Have you ever gone out with your friends or family just to be left at the bottom of a staircase while they figure out how to get you into the building? Have you ever missed out on an event because there wasn’t a bathroom you could use? These are just a few of the too-many-to-count scenarios that come up when you use a wheelchair. Being able to move freely around this world with minimal planning or forethought was something I most definitely took for granted before my injury. I had a very limited understanding of what wheelchair accessibility was all about. I have since been given a crash course on the topic and it is not just about the absence of stairs. No, it is most definitely so much more than stairs.
We are home! We returned from our trip to Disneyland just over a week ago and I’m already suffering from California withdrawal (the unseasonably freezing-cold weather and isolated flurries here at home are not helping!). I was pleasantly surprised that our trip went so smoothly. We were all good and exhausted by the time we got home; you don’t go to Disneyland to relax. The trip was wonderful! Being able to still have these special vacations and memories with my family means the world to me. I’m excited to give you the rundown on our little getaway.
A major aspect of wheelchair living is accessibility. After my accident, I began looking at the world (my world) through vastly different eyes than before. Places that I often went – restaurants, movie theatres, parks, beaches, schools, other people’s homes etc. quickly became more of a challenge. Stairs seem like the most obvious obstacle, but there are issues with bathrooms, door openings and steep inclines (to name a few). Venturing out into the world all of a sudden got much more complicated. So when it came to our own home, we wanted to make it as comfortable and accessible as we could so that my time could be used efficiently.
We were fortunate that our house was already mostly one level (rancher with a partial basement). We had moved in only seven months before I was injured and were planning an addition for my parents but were not going to renovate our side of the house. My accident took place at our home during the process of putting on the addition and when I fell through that hole, our plans for not renovating fell out the window.