My daughter is dating a young man who is confined to a wheelchair as a result of spinal cord injury, and it has profoundly affected the way she sees the world.
You see, Emily and I have lived quite a distance apart for the last several years. While she has witnessed some of my multiple sclerosis related disability, it has had only a minor impact on her view of life. In just a few months time with her new boyfriend, (let’s call him Derek) her eyes have been opened to the daily obstacles faced by someone living with disability.
In an earlier post, Handicapped Accessible Promises Fall Short, I spoke about the problems that I observed in a supposedly “handicapped accessible” room. On a recent trip to visit with Emily, Derek booked a “handicapped accessible” motel room which didn’t exactly live up to expectations. That hit her a little closer to home.
The main problem was that the bathroom didn’t have a walk-in shower or a shower chair. Now, I’m no expert on life in a wheelchair, but it stands to reason that if I can’t stand up, I’m going to need to sit in the shower. A bath won’t work because getting up and down over the edge would be impossible.
Derek has been in a wheelchair for several years and knew exactly what questions to ask prior to booking the room. He expected... and deserved... to get what he paid for.
Emily could barely contain her anger over the motel manager’s excuse that “Handicapped people steal the shower chairs.” They were offered a $20 per day discount for their troubles. $20 is very nice, but it won't help you take a shower. They accepted the discount and it fell to Emily to go out to purchase a shower chair.
After Derek’s visit, my daughter, who generally lets such things slide, sat down and penned a letter of complaint to the motel chain. I have no doubt that she will follow up, and it will be interesting to see just how far she takes this.
It has been very gratifying to watch the changes in her lately. Her assumptions about life have been challenged because a disabled person has become part of her life. His indignities have become her indignities.
Listening to her talk about the things they can’t do because of accessibility limitations has opened my eyes as well. I know all too well about the obstacles of getting around when my legs won’t function, but actually living in a wheelchair puts things on an entirely different level.
“Handicapped People Steal Shower Chairs!?” I'm outraged, too.
Published On: August 18, 2008