Raising consciousness about issues connected to being handicapped, particularly using a wheelchair & problems with disabled parking.

Killed in Crosswalk

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I’ve been busy revising my fiction manuscript and haven’t had much time for disability blogging.  Just a few days again, I was injured in a cross walk when a Forest Vehicle turned right and nearly hit me.  Afterward, I posted a report on my main writing blog, Kaye Munroe Writes, Too.

Here’s a link to that blog:  Killed in Crosswalk.

I’m reblogging this in hopes of raising awareness of the dangers of crosswalks due to negligent drivers too impatient to yield the right of way to pedestrians.  All those crossing are in danger, but seniors and children are the two most likely groups to suffer death or injury.  Often, survivors are left seriously injured, with life-long head and spinal cord injuries.

I was lucky.  I survived with my precious wheelchair intact, and though the damage doesn’t seem permanent, I’m suffering a great deal of pain that will be my companion for some time to come.  Roughly 5000 people die in crosswalks every year, usually hit by impatient motorists turning in the intersection.  About 78,000 people are injured each year.

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A few changes to the law might help save lives.  Instead of these vague laws requiring motorist to yield, we need laws nationwide like the one Oregon put in place, which requires drivers to wait until pedestrians have passed the lane and gone six feet further before executing a turn.  Oregon also requires motorists to wait until blind individuals have completely crossed the street and gained the sidewalk before proceeding into a turn.  I believe mobility impaired individuals—those with canes, crutches, walkers and wheelchairs—be included in this section of the law, as well as children.

Drivers, be a little more careful, and a lot more patient.  Be certain you look carefully while traveling through an intersection.  Put down the cell phone, the hair brush, the meal you just bought at the drive through, and pay attention to pedestrians who may be in the crosswalks.  And if someone is crossing, turn behind them instead of cutting them off to beat them to the lane they’re approaching.  Whatever your destination is, I guarantee it’s not more important than the life of another person—even if they’re older or disabled, they have a right to cross the street without fear of injury.

No one should face death or injury in a crosswalk.  If drivers would learn to have a little more respect for pedestrians, our city crosswalks would be the safe crossing our society intended them to be.

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Great Disability Website

Just a short post to mention a link to Disability Sanctuary, a terrific site designed to allow those with disabilities to interact online.  There’s a forum, a directory of services, and many other helpful features.  It’s particularly helpful for those who are home bound, since it gives you a way to meet and socialize with others who can really empathize and understand the difficulties we all share.  Here’s a link:

http://www.disabilitysanctuary.com/

I’m sorry for neglecting my blog lately, but I needed a little time in bed recently.  Now my poor kitty is sick with a respiratory infection, so he’s in isolation to keep the kittens from falling ill.  He wants me with him, and cries when I leave, but the kittens cry when I spend time in the bedroom with him.  I end up juggling kittens – fortunately, not literally! – which hasn’t allowed me much time to sit down and write.  While they were having breakfast this a.m., I tried to sneak in a quick post…and already I have cats scratching at the door and yowling!

Hope to be back in the blog saddle soon.

Only the Good Die Young

Norma Pfaff Michel

Norma claimed to be five feet tall, but we always knew she was shorter.

My mother was a tiny woman, but her heart was huge.  Juvenile diabetics are often small in stature.

Her mother, Leona, had been a school teacher in Ashley, Ohio.  Her father, Fred, was a farmer who handcrafted furniture for extra money.  Norma Ann was their only child.

When she was seven, Norma contracted chicken pox.  It was a mild case, with only a few itchy spots.  Her return to school was days away when her illness took a tragic turn.

That morning, Fred and Leona woke to a silent house.  Anyone with a young child will understand the chilling fear experienced when waking up to a quiet pall, instead of an energetic grade school child exploding from her bed in search of breakfast.

Panicked, they raced to her room.

Norma was in a coma.

Her fever had spiked during the night.  At the hospital, she remained in a coma for two weeks.  The doctors didn’t expect her to survive.  When she finally regained consciousness, something was dreadfully wrong.

Norma was now a juvenile diabetic.

It appeared the high fever she suffered damaged her system.  She was very ‘brittle’, unable to engage in physical activity without upsetting her fragile blood sugar.  In one respect, she was lucky: insulin had come into use only the year before.  Otherwise, she would have died immediately.

As things stood in 1933, she wasn’t expected to live to adulthood.

The next few years were difficult.  Left with a enormous hospital bill but no insurance, Fred took a second job working for the Ohio Department of Transportation.  For three years, he worked a forty hour week for ODOT, coming home after to tend his farm.  He paid every penny of his daughter’s medical bills.

Leona dedicated herself to her daughter.  Norma fell sick easily, and spent a great deal of her time bedridden.  Leona saw to her education.  A kitten was brought from the barn to keep the sick little girl company.  She named him “Peter”, and remembered him fondly for the rest of her life.

Norma amazed the doctors by surviving into adolescence.  Fred’s furniture began selling for more money than he had ever imagined possible, enabling him to sell the farm.  They bought a home in town so Norma would be closer to school.

Though illness often kept her from class, Norma was popular with her fellow students.  She was a lovely girl, with bright blue eyes and a mischievous smile.  Her body wasn’t strong, but her bubbly personality charmed everyone she met.

One word described her perfectly: ‘vivacious’.  She was full of life, and always saw the best in everyone she met.

Because of her illness, she didn’t date in high school.  One boy had a big crush on her, but his parents wouldn’t allow him to court her.  In those days, teenagers from small communities usually married their sweethearts shortly after graduating from high school.  This boy’s parents wanted their son to find a healthy wife.

Norma believed she’d never find love.

Her best friend, Emma, was dating a nice fellow from the nearby town of Waldo.  Jim Coleman had a close friend who was in medical school.  When Jim introduced Emma to Don Michel, they both agreed he’d be perfect for Norma.

They arranged a blind date.

Later, both claimed they fell in love at first sight.

Jim was driving that night.  He’d picked up Emma and Norma before heading over to Don’s house.  When he climbed into the back seat, Don knew he’d met the woman he was going to marry.

Norma thought him the most handsome man she’d ever met.  Don was well over six feet tall, but the extreme difference in their height was meaningless.  Her sparkly personality was the perfect foil for his quieter, more serious demeanor.

They were married in 1950.

Mother was twenty-six when she married Dad.  Embarrassed by her more ‘advanced’ age—she was two years older—she was quick to shave a year from her official biography.  She piled her hair atop her head to appear taller, and wore high heels to minimize the height difference.

It wasn’t a perfect marriage, but I’ve never doubted their love for each other.   Mother wasn’t physically strong enough to be a true wife, in every sense of the word.  At the time of their marriage, the doctors believed she’d would die before age thirty.

Though Dad never admitted it, I believe he expected only a few years with his new wife.

He later told me that he knew Mother wouldn’t be able to meet his sexual needs, but he loved her so much, he married her anyway.  He wasn’t experienced in such matters, and thought he wouldn’t miss the sexual aspects of marriage.

To him, she was worth the pain her loss would eventually cause.

Dad fought a heroic battle to keep her alive.  She lived to be forty-nine, an astonishing age given her frailty and unstable condition.

When I was a small child, I didn’t understand how sick she was.  It wasn’t uncommon for her to simply not wake up in the morning.  The ambulance would take her to the hospital, and after a few days, Dad would bring her home.  To me, that was normal.

The first time I had to call the ambulance myself, I was about four.  Instead of being frightened, I was excited because I’d get to dial the telephone.  Dad kept the hospital’s number taped next to the phone, and made sure I could read it.

In those days, the heavy Bakelite phones had stiff rotary dials.  I tried to use one finger, like the grown-ups, but couldn’t turn the dial.  I resorted to using both forefingers.  The hospital number contained a nine, and I couldn’t turn the dial all the way.  It took several attempts to complete the call.

Dad arrived with the ambulance.  Nobody ever gave me a word of praise for what I’d accomplished.  It was just what I was expected to do.

Mother was terrified of snakes; even a toy snake was too scary.  When I was a toddler, a copperhead got into our cabin on Middle Bass Island.  Mother and Auntie Peg put the children on the table, and attacked the snake with brooms.   Screaming the entire time, they beat the snake to death, leaving the cottage filled with the stench of cabbage.

She was very sociable, and quite the ‘clothes horse’.  Dad joined every fraternal order available, so Mother could join the Ladies Auxiliaries.  She’d put on make-up,  suits with pillbox hats inspired by Jackie Kennedy, and get together with her friends for coffee.  Her mother was also a professional seamstress, so Grandma made her beautiful, original outfits of very fine material.

Mother had a fiery temper, but once she’d gotten the anger out of her system, all was forgiven.  Once, while we were downtown, she opened the door to exit her car.  An elderly man hit the door and knocked it off.

She marched out to confront the other driver.  With shaking hands, the old man struggled to remove his driver’s license from his wallet.  Mother stomped around him in tight circles, ranting that he’d nearly killed her and endangered her kids.

Without warning, the man collapsed at her feet, sobbing.

An instant later, Mother dropped to her knees and took the old man in her arms.   Rocking him back and forth, she crooned, “It’s alright, nobody was hurt.  Don’t cry.”

Once he started crying, all was forgiven.  She didn’t even care about the rough sidewalk ruining her expensive nylons.

Mother’s condition turned terminal when I was seven, but the adults didn’t tell my sister or me.  I remember coming inside for the evening to find Mother washing dishes in a dark kitchen.  She was going blind, and no longer needed to turn on the light.  I didn’t understand what was happening until two years later.

When I was in junior high, she started having strokes.  Her right arm was paralyzed, and she lost her ability to speak coherently.  “Go Disneyland, get giz-whiz” meant “Get me some ice cream.”

She was recovering from the first stroke when the second occurred.  Hearing a rhythmic bang from the bathroom, I found her having convulsions.  I had no idea what was wrong, but I knew it was bad.  She barely survived, and there was no further hope of rehabilitation.

One of the hardest things for me was that nobody believed me when I said she was terminal.  Everyone at school, even the teachers, seemed to think I was making up stories.  Perhaps they thought I was seeking attention, or making excuses for poor grades.  It was hard to care about classwork when I knew my mother could literally die at any moment.

Even my close friends, who knew Mother well, didn’t seem to understand how ill she was.  Occasionally, my friends came to visit her.  It amused me when Amy and Rita showed up and told me, “We didn’t come to see you; we came to visit Mom.”

I like the fact that my friends called her ‘Mom’.

Her bedroom became our living room.  The family would gather on her bed to watch television together.  I read magazines to her, and we laughed at Carol Burnett.  When the humans were absent, Mother had the family dogs and cats stretched out beside her on the mattress.

When I was twelve, she suffered a stroke so serious, she remained in a coma for four months.  The first month, Dad kept her at home, with an I.V. strung up from the light pole next to her bed.  He thought she was dying, and he’d promised her that he’d help her die at home.

That was the period when Dad went a little crazy.  He drowned his sorrow in booze.  After a month of this, my grandmothers went to court and had him committed.  They gained custody of my sister and me for the next year.

To everyone’s amazement, Mother survived again.  However, she’d aged so much during the crisis that I didn’t recognize her when they brought her home.  It took me nearly a year to accept the change.

Her circulation deteriorated, and her right leg was amputated below the knee.  She got a prosthesis, but before she really learned to walk again, a sore formed on her stump.  This time, her leg was amputated at the hip.

While she was recuperating, I came to visit her in the hospital.  She complained her left leg was cold.  The veins had collapsed.  Emergency surgery left her a double amputee, both legs taken off at the hips.

At this point, she became unwilling to eat.  When Dad realized she’d eat to keep from upsetting me, it became my job to feed her.  Our high school had three half hour lunch shifts; Dad arranged for me to have the entire ninety minutes off, and I went home—or to the hospital, if she was there—nearly every day to make certain she ate.  After school, I went home to feed her dinner, then was free to participate in after-school activities.

Once she was entirely bedridden, pressure sores became an issue.  In January of 1976, we could no longer care for her.  Dad was forced to place her in a nearby nursing home.  We brought her home each Sunday for a visit.

Mother was fascinated by the American Revolution, and thrilled by the American Bicentennial.  Once the celebration was over, however, she refused to come home for three weeks.

That last Sunday, she spent the day explaining to Dad what she wanted for her funeral.  Since I’d grown up with her garbed version of English, I’d become her translator.  As a result, I was the one interpreting for her that afternoon.  It’s a day I’ll never forget.

After hours of struggling to make her wishes known, she was finally satisfied that Dad understood everything she wanted.  She pointed at the phone with her left hand—virtually the only thing she had left that still worked.

“Now call,” she ordered.

Dad picked up the phone, and called Mr. Bennett, of the  Bennett-Brown Funeral Home.  Mother grew up next door to the Bennetts, so her dear childhood friend would be the man to bury her.

She returned to the nursing home, and refused her insulin.  A few years after her death, my grandmothers told me she didn’t want to ruin Christmas by dying during the holidays.

My father was stunned when she lingered for five days without insulin.  He didn’t want me to know what was happening, so I was forbidden to visit that week.  On Thursday morning, I woke to find Dad sitting on the edge of my bed.

He was crying, the only time I ever saw him actually weep.

“Mother’s gone,” he said.  “What do I do?”

We intended the funeral to be intimate.  Mother asked for donations to the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation in lieu of flowers.  When we arrived for the visitation, Mr. Bennett took us to the small room where she was laid out.  He showed us a display of the most beautiful flowers I’d ever seen.  Almost every one had a card inside, stating that a donation had also been made to her favorite charity.

“I want to show you something,” Mr. Bennet said.

He took us into the larger viewing room.  It was stuffed with bouquets.   They were stacked on every surface, and covered most of the floor.

“So many people ordered flowers, the shops here in town couldn’t fill the orders,” he told us.  “They had to send down to Columbus to find enough flowers.  I picked the best arrangements for her showing.”

Dad was never the same after Mother died.  He did remarry, but it wasn’t a happy union.  Although he’d been sober for years, he fell off the wagon when he lost Norma.  He died of a heart attack three years later, at the age of fifty-one.

There’s no doubt Dad’s alcoholism took its toll on his health.  He’d also suffered smoke inhalation a month before his death, re-entering our burning house repeatedly to save our pets.  He checked himself out of intensive care after three days, and no doubt that also contributed to his early death.

But I’ve always believed that my father actually died of a broken heart.  He just couldn’t bear to live without Mother.

The Disability Contest

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Yesterday, my care provider dropped me off at the clinic before leaving to get lunch.  Without Susan to act as a buffer, a stranger quickly engaged me in conversation.

The attractive twenty-something brunette asked me if I’d been dropped off by a medical transport service.

“No,” I replied.  “My IHSS worker dropped me off.

“I wish I could get In Home Support Services,” the young woman sniffed.  “I’m epileptic, and they say I don’t qualify because I can dress myself.”

For those who don’t live in California, IHSS provides in-home care to those who need help with day-to-day living.  It’s designed to keep people such as myself out of nursing homes, which would cost the state more money in the long run.  The hours I’ve been granted each month cost about the same amount as one day in a nursing home.  Because of this program, I’m able to continue living in my own home, with a certain degree of independence.

Unfortunately, like many programs, people who don’t really need these services often see IHSS as a free, state funded housekeeping service.  And like many other social services, in recent years this program has been severely impacted by budget cuts.  At this point, only those in desperate need are able to meet the stringent qualifications.

“I’ve been waiting for the medical transport to pick me up,” the young woman continued.  “It’s been an hour now, and they still haven’t come.”

She glared at me, underscoring her resentment of what she considered my good fortune.  After all, not only did I possess a lovely motorized wheelchair, I’d been granted the coveted privilege of an IHSS care provider.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people are jealous of those in wheelchairs.  I’ve actually had people tell me they thought being in a wheelchair was romantic!  Judging from this young woman’s envious stares, she also coveted my medical equipment.

I realize not all disabilities are visible, and it’s impossible to judge the extent of need from a glance at someone’s exterior.  However, after suffering from seizures for several years during the 1990′s, I’m aware that most people who can’t drive due to seizures manage perfectly well by using public transportation.  Personally, I considered this woman lucky to be able to use medical transport services instead.

Since medical transports must schedule as many clients as possible into a given time frame, most won’t stop unless the rider is sitting outside when they pull up.  When I tried to use the local services, they all required clients to sit outside for a half hour prior to the scheduled pick-up time, and up to half an hour after; they can come at any moment within that one hour time frame.  I’m too frail to withstand the weather that long, and recurring pressure sores also limit the amount of time I’m allowed to sit up, so I’m not able to use medical transport services.

It seemed ironic that someone young and relatively healthy – at least, in comparison to me – was clearly so envious of the ‘perks’ I’d been granted.

Last month, when I went to an appointment with my pain specialist, an older woman expressed similar sentiments about my chair.

“That’s a nice wheelchair,” she remarked.  “What did you do to deserve that?”

Her words implied that I’d deliberately set out to damage myself in some manner, just so I could obtain a fancy ride.  I might’ve believed it was simply a case of poorly chosen words, but her snippity tone left no doubt in my mind that she meant exactly what she said.

Once again, I faced someone who considered me a rival in a contest of disability.

I summoned my dignity, responding  in a quiet, matter-of-fact tone.  “I have MS.”

“Oh, you must be voting for Romney, then,” she said.  “His wife has MS.”

I was flabbergasted by the assumption that I’d cast a vote for the highest office in the land, simply because I shared an illness with one candidate’s spouse.

Why do so many people assume that sharing the same condition automatically binds the disabled together?  To me, such thinking is dehumanizing.  I’m not my disability; I’m an individual who happens to suffer from MS.

I wanted to tell this woman that Mitt Romney’s wealth gives his wife access to the expensive treatment denied to me by Medicare.  My doctor informs me this medication is the one thing which might improve my condition, but dues to its high cost, Medicare refuses to allow it for those like myself.  Given that Romney opposes any plans to help the common taxpaying MS sufferer to obtain that treatment, suffering the same disease as his wife isn’t enough to win my vote.

One recurrent prize in the Disability Contest is handicapped parking.  Because I have to use a ramp to unload my wheelchair, I need the crosshatching of the handicapped parking space.  It’s not uncommon for such parking to be at the end of a row of spaces, with regular parking spaces often situated directly in front of a building’s doors.

Yet many people who aren’t in wheelchairs will bypass those regular, closer spaces in order to park in the handicapped spaces even though it means they must actually walk further!  For those individuals, it’s clear mobility isn’t the real issue; for them, making a point of the fact that they’re disabled is the most important thing.

When I first started using a wheelchair, I was still able to drive.  One day, I was turning my van to park in a handicapped space with the crosshatching on the wrong side; I had to back into the space in order to unload my chair.  A woman pulling into a space directly in front the dentist’s office, where we were both heading, quickly whipped her compact car out and cut me off to steal the handicapped space.  I leaned out the window to tell her I was in a wheelchair and needed the space to unload.

“I’m disabled, too,” she snapped.  Then she actually skipped down the sidewalk to the enter the office.

I’m not certain where she got the placard, but I’m fairly certain it wasn’t really hers.  After parking in another space across the complex, and struggling to wheel myself uphill to the office – I was still using a manual wheelchair then – I found the woman loudly explaining to everyone in the office that she’d cured herself of chronic fatigue syndrome by drinking two gallons of red wine per day!  When the receptionist, who’d seen the entire farce, tried to shame the woman by telling her I have MS, this individual suddenly changed her story.

“I have MS, too,” she declared.  “But I discovered that red wine cures MS.  The secret is, you have to drink two gallons a day.  Any less than that, and it won’t go away.”

Maybe someone should let Ann Romney know the magical effects of red wine.  Then her husband won’t have to spend so much money on expensive medication.

I’ll never understand why so many people view those of us with disabilities as some sort of rivals.  I only know that having a physical defect  isn’t a contest.   As long as self-centered people who lack compassion insist on competing with those of us who are struggling to exist with disabilities in an able-bodied world, no human being has any hope of winning.

When I went back to college in the 80′s, I needed a way to earn money without wearing myself out, or locking myself into a schedule that conflicted with my changing classes.  Hoping to pick up odd jobs, perhaps running errands, I placed an ad  in the local paper: “Almost Anything for a Buck!”

Not long after, I received a call from a gentleman named Dick Maxwell.  He was second in command of OSU Office of Disability Services, a retired Marine – there’s no such thing as an ex-Marine – who’d spent several decades as a champion of quadriplegia.  Like many handicapped individuals in need of extraordinary care, he sometimes found it difficult keeping care providers in his employ.

Dick thought my ad indicated I was a woman willing to give just about anything a try.  He was right.

My mother, Norma Pfaff Michel, was a juvenile diabetic whose condition turned terminal when I was seven.  My father, Dr. Don K. Michel, expected me to do my part in caring for her, so I’d gotten excellent early training in home health care.  This experience made me perfect for Dick’s needs, after a little special training in the particulars of caring for a man with severe paralysis.

Within a few weeks, I withdrew my ad, and began working exclusively for Dick Maxwell.

Dick taught me that his handicap was really only a small part of who he was.  He’d been born just a few blocks from the OSU campus, and except for his time in the Marines, he’d spent most of his life living in the heart of Columbus.  He’d lived a full, very busy, and productive life.  Whatever he decided he wanted or needed done, Dick found a way to do, and he never let anything stop him.

A little thing like a spinal cord injury was just a bump in the road for a warrior like Dick.

He’d been in college when the accident occurred.  Dick was a Phi Delt, playing fraternity football when he was injured.  It was the last play of the last game of the season.  Dick had possession of the ball, and was heading down the field when he was tackled.  As usual, the opposing team piled on top of him as he was brought down.

Dick was holding the ball to his chest when he fell.  The ball acted as a fulcrum.  Under the weight of the other players, his spine snapped between his shoulders, leaving him paralyzed from his armpits down.

In an instant, this tough Marine found himself thrust into a new way of life.

A few weeks later, as he was recovering in OSU hospital, John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.  Dick told me JFK’s death hurt him more than his physical injury.  Even then, he considered a broken back to be a small event in the larger scheme of the world he lived in.

Rather than wallow in self-pity, Dick was determined to remain as independent and productive as possible.  Many of the tools that mobility impaired individuals use today can be attributed to Dick Maxwell’s refusal to let others do for him.  He helped design arm braces that allowed a variety of utensils to be attached to them, and he worked to optimize his control over his hands so that he could once more write, feed himself, and drink from a cup.

Many people give up when facing a future constrained by quadriplegia, but Dick never considered surrendering.  He told me he believed it was his fate.  Just before the accident, he’d been preparing to graduate from college, and was slated to do a tour of duty in Vietnam.  Dick felt certain that, had he not been injured playing football, he’d have suffered a similar injury serving his country.

As far as he was concerned, God had given Dick a mission.  It was his duty to make the world a better place for those with physical limitations.   He’d been assigned the job of trailblazer, and it was his job to set an example.  Suicide was not an option.

Instead, Dick overcame every setback to finish his degree and graduate.  He found employment with OSU, and worked his way up to a position of responsibility where he could do everything in his power to encourage others to succeed, despite what many would consider insurmountable obstacles.

His very presence in OSU Disability Services was a testament to what those with disabilities can accomplish if they set their minds to it.  Dick had no patience with those who used their handicap as an excuse to fail; he scorned those who clung to self-pity.  He never viewed himself as a quadriplegic.  Dick was just a guy, like everyone else.

If there’s one thing I learned from him that I wish I could make the world understand, it’s that a person with a disability is not their disability.  Handicaps don’t define a person.  A disability is  just another characteristic, like eye color or height or how you dress.

Dick was never “the quadriplegic”.  It’s more accurate to call him “the Marine” than anything else.

Because he wanted to live indepently, Dick became involved in the construction of an apartment complex for those who’ve become chairoteers.  This wheelchair accessible housing was dubbed ‘Creative Living’, and it’s still operating in central Columbus, Ohio.  It’s a model for accessible housing, giving those with mobility issues a chance to live a fully functional life.  Publicity about Dick’s lack of housing was the inspiration for this organization.

Dick also worked hard to bring the ADA into being.  He fought to have curbs modified with ramps so those of us on wheels don’t get stuck at the edge of the sidewalk.  Dick Maxwell insisted on living in the mainstream of life, and allowed nothing to push him out of the current of progress.

Above all, this man fine-tuned his sense of humor.  On one occasion, I remember taking him to pick up his updated disabled parking plates.  The clerk spoke to Dick in a very loud voice, pronouncing each word carefully, as if being in a wheelchairiot was a sign of deafness.  I got a little irate at her behavior, but Dick told me to chill, and pretended he couldn’t hear her!

By the time we left, it was clear the girl was quite proud of her skill in dealing with her latest customer.  I laughed all the way back to the van.  With Dick, the joke was on her.

When we travelled in the van, I may have held the wheel in my hands, but it was Dick who was actually driving!  He’d monitor my speed, making sure I maintained exactly the right pace, telling me when to change lanes, and figuratively holding my reins during every maneuver.  Some people might have called him a backseat driver, but I think his tutelage improved my driving skills.  The only time I got annoyed was during a very intense night drive through the hills of southern Ohio, on a visit to his dad’s.  His comments were breaking my concentration, so I finally told him to shut up.

Luckily, Dick was big enough to realize I needed a little space, so he didn’t fire me for talking back!

Dick Maxwell was always a man in a hurry.  His signature phrase was: “Hit it and git it!”  There’s no time to waste when there’s so much to accomplish.  Life’s too short to squander.  And a disability is just another part of life.

http://creative-living.com/history.html

Never thought I’d become a blogger, but here I am: a small voice in the web wilderness.

My purpose is to bring the gift of awareness to those who are limited by their able-bodied lives, and present a window into the world of disabilities.  Many individuals cherish prejudices about those of us with disabilities, which are frequently nutured by television programs that don’t present a true depiction of the issues individuals with disabilities face.

Although I can’t speak for everyone, nor every type of handicap, I’ve got lots of experience with the World of Wheelchairs (or chairiots, as I like to call them).

My main gripe: those who illegally use disable parking spaces.  I’m hoping to change the law here in California so that illegally parked vehicles can be easily towed, to discourage the misuse of parking that rightfully belongs to those who truly need it.

I don’t pretend to be politically correct, so if you don’t agree with what I say, feel free to read someone else’s blog.  I intend to call ‘em like I see ‘em.  For example, if you have difficulty walking due to obesity, don’t expect me to feel sorry for you.

On the other hand, I’m not asking for pity because of my disability.  (I have multiple sclerosis.)  I don’t want pity, but I do request compassion.  There’s a difference.  With pity, one person is looking down on another.  With compassion, people are equals.

If you believe disabilities are God’s punishment for someone’s sins, we obviously don’t worship the same God.  The Creator I’m familiar with doesn’t punish missteps by making someone ill, or allowing them to be injured.  If you think I’m disabled because my faith isn’t strong enough to allow God to heal me, let me remind you: they’re called miracles for a reason.

If you believe disabled people are looking for any easy ride on your tax dollars, you clearly have no idea of the struggles those of us with physical limitations face.  By the way, I’m collecting my father’s benefits; he was a doctor who never lived to collect a penny that he paid in, & I couldn’t use the tax dollars he payed into the system in my lifetime.  My mother also died young; she & I both paid in, so I’m not spending any of YOUR money.

If you believe I’d get all better if I just followed whatever quack cure you believe in, forget it.  Herbs/juicing/positive thinking/light therapy/ionized water/exercise, or whatever, is not going to cure me.  I’m not being stubborn, it’s just reality.  None of us are immortal, and magical thinking stems from fear of death.  If you can’t face your fear, then get out of MY face.

If you believe I’m a whiner because I expect people to grant me what is mine under federal law, then you have no heart beating in your pinched little chest.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed to guarantee that people such as myself have free passage in the world.  Just because your legs function and mine don’t, doesn’t mean you own the planet.

Often, I feel like a Native American living on a reservation.  (And I’m part Cherokee, so don’t call me racist for saying that!)  The law grants me a limited amount of space: parking with cross-hatching so I can unload my wheelchair, ramps so I can get up & down curbs, extra-wide bathroom stalls so I can eliminate without hassle.  When the able-bodied hog the small piece of the world that’s mine by law, I get pissed.

How would you feel if I took your property?

If you only had a tiny space to live in, wouldn’t you defend it?

Don’t make excuses, cos I’ve heard them all before.

“Oh, I was just going to park here for a minute while I run in to get one little thing.”

“I didn’t know the cross-hatching was part of the handicap space.”

“I love using the disabled shower because it makes me feel like a princess to sit on the padded stool with the hand-held shower wand.”

“My son thinks it’s fun to use the handicap stall, and he’s just a kid, so I don’t have the heart to tell him ‘no’.”

I don’t expect anyone to read this blog.  If anyone does, it’s probably going to be someone with a disability, because the able-bodied usually aren’t interested, so I’ll just be preaching to the choir.  Don’t want pity, just want others to understand what it’s like to have to deal with limitations on a daily basis.  I don’t want to be famous or draw attention to myself.

All I want is what’s rightfully mine, and what’s fair to everyone.

And most of all, I want to mend broken perceptions, free small minds from being cooped up inside walls of  ignorance, and open doors that should never have been closed against me & mine in the first place.

I’m a wheelie.  That’s my tribe.  And as long as I have a voice, I intend to use it for the benefit of those who may not have the ability to speak out themselves.

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