There are times I hate my fellow cripples. I'm sorry, it's true. I especially hate that every other wheelchair using, accessible room needing, parking space filler upper, has different needs than me. That those who design for the great 'us' who are disabled, are forced to think about various needs of a range of disabilities. Thus I'm stuck with hotel rooms, disabled bathrooms, ramps that may be wonderful for others but don't cut it for me.
Like how do they grow crips in England? Most of the hotel rooms I stay in don't have the walk in showers. Most have tubs that have bars. The bars are so low as to be useless when you want to get in and shower, but odder still, to get into the tub you've got to step up a huge step into it. What's with that? And with no grab bar, because disabled people all need grab bars just above the side of the tub (for what purpose?) and none of us need one on the wall where we can hold on as we hoist up. Who are these disabled people? How can you be disabled and get into a tub that's 2 feet off the floor?
Now I appreciate that there are even such things as 'wheelchair friendly' rooms and 'accessible' bathrooms, I really truly do, and they really do help make my experience in the world easier. I can't imagine what it would be like if some poor forgotten sod hadn't invented the ramp.
But what's cool about being home is that I didn't have to think about generic cripples when adapting the place. It's was really all about me. We bought a home that was accessible (ramped) because we wanted a place where friends in wheelchairs could visit. There was a decision that paid off in spades. Think of others, benefit yourself. I've got a kitchen wheelchair, and my spot at the counter where I help prepare meals. I've got a bathroom chair where I can sit to shave and make myself geeeorgous. I've got the front room set up so that I can watch tv from a tall chair if my legs are feeling week, or from the couch if I'm having a good day. This 'social model' of disability is cool because, after being home for a few days my status as a disabled person begins to recede in my mind. I just live here.
Yesterday Mike, Joseph (the 13 year old version) and Ruby (15 months) arrived for our Boxing Day Bonanza. They came in with fresh parcels and we had their stuff packed away under the tree. A hello or two was done and then we attacked the gifts. Having a 13 year old involved in this meant that organization went out the window. Joe and I open our gifts one and a time, chat about where we bought it, who the clerk was, and the thought that went into the present. It delays the gratification. Joseph is 13 he doesn't delay anything. Paper was ripped off and the word 'awesome' was heard from under a pile of paper a couple of times.
As we all made dinner and got the evening going, I realized that more than my house has been made accessible. Everyone there had made tiny adjustments for being with someone who sat and rolled more than stood and walked. It was natural, there was no embarrassed fumbling or frustrated glances. It was just a time of us adjusting to each other. Everyone had different needs and different things they wanted to get out of the evening. Baby Ruby just wanted to be part of everything the big people did, Joseph wanted a new respect as an almost adult definately not child, Mike wanted brother and sister (who live separately) to begin to know each other. Joe wanted everyone to like their presents and to feel at home. It was nice to be in a home, adapted for me, but adapting for others. Having my own needs not trumping others needs because I was in a chair.
I think that's called reciprocity. It's sometimes hard as a disabled person to get into reciprocal relationships as the disability seems to call forth needs in others to subvert their will, their wants for you. "Here let me get that for you," "No, no, you just sit there, I'll do it," it is tempting to give in to the subservient position because it's an easy role to play. I see so many people with intellectual disabilities who've been trained to take, been taught they've got nothing to give, been reduced to wants and needs - the burden status. I like this reciprocity thing, I like being seen as powerful enough, and interesting enough, and demanding enough, to be an equal part of the social environment. "I can get that myself thank you, now may I get one for you too?"
Reciprocity. It's a model of human interaction that really works. Research has shown that reciprocity is the single most important social skill for the maintenance of human relationships. It's about giving back. Considering others. Adapting, and ramping the world for others - ain't that a kick in the rubber parts.
Yep, it works for me. It works for them. And last night it was what makes 'us' us.