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Simple things are more complicated in a wheelchair

By Ernie Williamson

The Bulletin

Many of the challenges those of us who are disabled and in wheelchairs confront are known and understood by the general public.

But many are not.

Wheelchair life presents a person with not only major lifestyle changes, but everyday annoyances that most non-disabled people probably never think about.

Here are some those things I find annoying:

NO ADA HERE: The Americans with Disabilities Act applies only to public buildings, not private homes. I have skipped parties because there was no easy way to get into the house without using a ramp and making a spectacle of myself.

And I have left gatherings early - and suddenly - because there was not an accessible bathroom.

HARD WAY TO START DAY: Dressing every morning used to take 15 minutes. Now it now takes an hour or more, even with a long shoe horn and other dressing aids.

It also requires more patience than I have.

More than one shoe has been thrown across the room in frustration. And try taking off a wet bathing suit while in a wheelchair.

MESSY EATING: The ADA has regulations for restaurant table heights. I, however, am tall with long legs, so even tables that comply with regulations are so low I cannot get my legs under them. So, I sit sideways and end up spilling food on my lap … or the floor.

Recently, I was so embarrassed about the amount of spillage on the floor I warned our waiter so it would be clean for the next diners.

SHOULDERING THE BURDEN: My shoulders end up doing the work my legs are supposed to do.

They roll the wheelchair and help me transfer in and out of the chair, usually about 15-20 times a day. Shoulders were not designed for this, and now I cry out every time I lift or reach.

LONG NIGHTS: Getting a good night’s sleep is difficult. I had always slept on my side, but now it is too painful because of my aching shoulders.

Getting accustomed to sleeping on my back has not come easily. I used to check the clock in hopes I had more time to sleep. Now, I check the time in hopes the night is almost over.

REMEMBER WHAT YOUR MOTHER SAID: It is not polite to stare. I understand why children stare, but it still annoys me. Maybe it is because kids, unlike their parents, do not even look away when caught.

RISKY PIT STOPS: To gas up my van, I deploy a ramp and roll out into the same areas where pickups are jockeying for an open pump. To reduce the risk, I often go out of my way to find a gas station that is not busy.

BLUE TAGS FOR ALL: I have never challenged anyone’s right to handicapped parking, but I am certain we have more handicapped parkers than we have handicapped people. As a result, I must leave for appointments early in case I must drive around waiting for an open spot.

TOP SHELF ITEMS: At the grocery store, it seems my favorite brand of any food item is always out of reach. I have “reachers” at home, but at the store I am afraid of dropping a glass bottle and making a mess. So, I wait until someone comes that can reach the item for me.

(Contact Ernie at Or, send letters in care of The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516)


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