Becoming disabled at the age of 52 was not what I had planned for my life. I am supposed to be enjoying life with my husband, traveling, having fun with my children and grandchildren not wondering how much pain I going to be in or how many spasms am I going to have to endure. Now I am learning to live with pain at 5+ on the pain scale on most days as well as having to take way more medications than any normal person and having to use assistive devices. Yes, these things make life more difficult, but learning to navigate in public places as well as with the public is even more difficult.
Just going to any local grocery store, pharmacy, or restaurant possess challenges that beg the questions like: why must they all have industrial mats at the entry year around? or Why are the handicap bathroom stalls are at the back of the bathroom? Should they not be at the first stall where people with disabilities can get them fast and easier? or Why do most places make the doors to enter the bathroom so heavy that even a person with no disability has difficulty opening ?
Every time I enter a building, I must be aware as there is often a major trip hazard called rugs/mats. This is especially true when you are using a walker because as you “glide over them” they catch the wheels and lift causing a major trip hazard. When the mat lift you then have to stop, lift up your walker so you can dislodge the mat stuck under the back wheels or skid plate, and then set it back down before walking on. Well, if you are using a walker chances are you are already unstable like me. Now, I must try to stand balanced while lift and setting down my walker. Does not sound very safe to me.
Next, why is it that in most places the handicapped restroom is the very last stall, there is usually only one stall, and just entering the restroom is a chore? Most people living with a deficit already have difficulty so making the door to enter so heavy that even someone who is healthy and strong can barely open it is just uncalled for. Living with a SCI and Chiari Malformation does not just cause added pain but also creates bowl and bladder issues. Often when the urge hits you must go right now. So, struggling to open the door, only to find out you have walk even further then abled body people and then there is only one stall which is now occupied by an able body person. Women tend to use these stalls when they have small children-So why not use the family restrooms instead? Granted in some locations they put the changing table for babies in the only stall available for handicap which complicates matters some (not sure if this is true in the men’s restroom). It seems strange to people when you have a grown adult doing the pee-pee dance because you are doing everything you can to not have an accident. It is a bit embarrassing to be an adult that has bathroom accidents, but it happens.
Having illnesses like Chiari, MS, SCI and many others means dealing with not only the everyday pain and discomfort it also means learning to deal with bowl and bladder problems. There are days where everything works like it is supposed to and then in the blink of an eye you are dealing with urgency and inability to control your bowel and/or bladder. It is already difficult having to deal with chronic pain and instability but then we also must navigate in a world that is not made for people with disabilities. So, when you are out, I would ask others to be a bit more considerate, avoid using the only handicapped bathroom if possible, and pay attention to your surroundings. You can help those of us with a deficit by being proactive and watching for hazards and bring them to managements awareness just like I do. Even with the obstacles, I still am grateful for every day I have, and I feel truly blessed. I will keep moving forward and do my best to tell a better story as I know that God has a plan for me.