Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

The Politics of Paralysis

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

The Politics of Paralysis

Article excerpt

Before I became injured, I never gave too much thought to the signs for those with disabilities that I saw spread throughout society. The blue signs with the outline of an individual in a wheelchair were easy enough to spot in parking lots and on bathroom doors. Ramps allowed individuals to enter a building, and once inside, elevators could do the rest. Surely these basic modifications provided people with disabilities everything they needed to enjoy their experience out in the community, right? Wrong.

The feeling of not being able to be accommodated when you are a person with a disability is not a good one, trust me--ramps and bathrooms with one stall a bit bigger than the others doesn't do it by a long shot. Let me paint you a very common scenario that frequently occurs in my life. It's Friday night, and my boyfriend and I are going out to dinner. We call to make reservations, and if we are choosing a place we haven't been before, we ask if it's wheelchair friendly. "Huh?" is usually the first response I get from the highly intelligent individual on the other end of the phone. I go on to explain that I use a wheelchair and need to make sure I will be able to get into the establishment. Sometimes I get a breathy "Oh, yes, we have a RAMP." Thank you, I was worried I wouldn't be able to hear you due to my paralysis. Other well-intending people assure me that they have plenty of assistance to carry me and my chair up the half dozen steps to get to the front entrance; I assure them that while I greatly appreciate their efforts, my chair alone weighs in at 350 pounds, 460 pounds with me in it. (A few summers ago at a party, four ego-crazed, alcohol-hazed guys insisted they could carry me up a few steps onto a deck. I made out fine, but I think all four of them made trips to the chiropractor the following week.)

So we go to this new restaurant that is wheelchair-friendly because they have a ramp, and I am able to get in the door. Once inside, the maitre'd leads us to our table, which happens to be a booth and moves a place setting to the end for yours truly. I look up at my boyfriend, and he knows what's coming. "Excuse me," I say, "but we need to sit at an actual table. This booth doesn't work for us." If the maitre'd is cool, he or she will gladly show us to a table or better yet, they'll ask me what type of table works best for me. If I'm not that lucky, the person may look at me with an exasperated expression, waiting for an explanation as to why the booth won't work. "Keep waiting, pal," I think to myself, "because you're not going to get one." I say this by smiling at the exasperated individual, staying silent, and not budging. They eventually get the message and begrudgingly show us to a table. I kill them with compliments of kindness as much as I can and settle in to look at the wine list and enjoy an evening with my guy. Now, to the nice maitre'd, I'm happy to give an explanation: It's no fun to sit with your back to the entire restaurant or to be sticking out in the middle of a walkway when you are placed at the end of a booth, plus then I also can't sit across from my boyfriend. Simply put, the booth deal for me is no fun. Tables can be hit or miss, as well. If a table you are sitting at to eat has a big pedestal in the middle, there is a good chance you won't be able to get under it enough in order to reach your place setting; your wheels or footrests or knees may stop you. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.