As a reward for all of this scolding, please enjoy this video of a man’s quest for a bagel. NYC is awful for folks with mobility issues, and this guy faces it all with humor and profanity, two of my favorite coping mechanisms.
A while back, Charlotte (my stepdaughter, for anyone who stumbled here via a means other than Facebook) posted something to Facebook about her annoyance with able people using the handicapped door opener. One of her friends took issue with this – “stop calling me lazy and who am I hurting?!” was the gist of his reply. I vowed to write an even-tempered, kind response but didn’t manage to pull together thoughts for a couple of weeks, at which point my posting something would have verged on creepy.
Luckily, there’s a blog for that! Today I will tackle a few of my pet peeves as they relate to life as a person with MS and how others (like you!) might modify their behavior to minimize frustrations to those less abled.
1. Handicapped doors are not for you. They are marvelous things. Most doors on businesses are HEAVY, even for the able-bodied, so doors that open at the press of a button make my life much easier. They might make your life easier, too, but here’s the thing – each time you use that button, it is getting unnecessary wear and tear that could lead to its malfunctioning. Pushing a door opening button and having nothing happen is a sad affair. Also, if someone who really needs the button mechanism is behind you but not immediately behind you, she has to wait for the door to close fully before the door can open again. Got arms full of boxes? You get a free pass. Just feeling a little lazy at the end of the day? Nope. To the normal doors with you!
2. Handicapped restroom stalls require good judgment. They even give me pause. At work, I consider the handicapped stall my domain, as I am one of two ladies with a mobility aid on my floor. Standing and sitting are not my strong points – doing so bare-assed over toilet water is especially dangerous. If it’s the only stall available, the handicapped restroom is fair game for the able-bodied. But if you just want a private sink for toothbrushing (I’m looking at you unnamed coworker)? Nope.
Now here’s where it gets complicated. Handicapped stalls are a must for folks confined to wheelchairs, obviously, but where do I fit in as a cane-user? Here’s my rule of thumb: unless my legs are crazy wobbly on a given day, I go to another stall in large public bathrooms. (Similarly, if you are on the verge of an accident and the handicapped stall is nearest, use it. Good judgment!)
If you are in a theater where there’s a special single handicapped bathroom on the main floor, for the love of all that is holy, please climb the stairs down to the basement and wait in the horrible long line, happy knowing that you are a good person with working legs.
3. Look out for curb cuts, those little ramps from street to sidewalk, usually at corners. If you are not pushing a stroller, please keep curb cuts clear. One of my greatest fears in life is falling off a curb into traffic (also, slugs). The gentle(ish) slope of the curb cut lessens this fear. Plus, if I’m on my scooter or in a wheelchair, I really need them.
Please also be aware of curb cuts when driving. I have shaken my first at far too many cars and tour buses that are blocking my passage over the years.
4. Don’t ask for a ride on my scooter. Yes, it looks like (and can be) a fun thing on which to take joy rides, but it is primarily a tool that has changed my life, affording me a little independence for things like grocery trips. I would trade it for the ability to walk a mile in a heartbeat.
Please don’t say, “Oh, I’m so tired! Can I borrow your scooter?” I know you mean no harm. I will smile and say, “Anytime!” But inside I am calling you an asshole. On a related note, do not ask if I “have a license for that thing” (addressed recently on Speechless, a charming sitcom that tackles disability issues brilliantly) or accuse me of speeding.
Note: all scooter rules are moot if we are drunk. You may have a ride then. Assuming I can still drive.
5. Don’t express jealousy of my having a handicapped parking placard. Yes, it is nice to almost always have access to a spot close to the entrance. You know what else is nice? Not having a chronic illness.
6. For the last time: YOU CANNOT BEDAZZLE MY CANE. The only thing worse than having to use a cane is having to use a tacky cane.