Across the street from our apartment is a beautiful little playground that the girls love to visit whenever they visit us. As it happens, I'd never taken them there, not because of unwillingness but because the circumstances hadn't presented the opportunity. So, when after a breakfast of waffles and Jif, we all decided to head over, I was looking forward to seeing it close up. Odd how you can go by something pretty much every day and not really notice it.
As we approached I asked Joe, who'd been there before with the kids, where the entrance was as I couldn't immediately see a gate in. He pointed over to the side where a gate was so well integrated into the fence that it was almost impossible to see. It looked wide enough to allow the wheelchair so I was pleased that I'd be able to get easily in. However upon arrival I saw that the wheelchair would fit through the gate but there was no cut curb up to the gate. In fact I had to park my wheelchair in the entrance way to an underground parking lot serving the building that has the playground. Several times I had to move for annoyed drivers who didn't like me, understandably, blocking their way.
I was caught up in watching the girls play so I didn't bother thinking about anything other than the fact that they were having a blast. As happens at playgrounds we chatted with others there with kids, we made friends with a lovely black puppy and met a giant dog with boundless energy. It was a bit of a community gathering, and though I was in a driveway ducking cars and they were in the playground, or just outside of it, no one made much mention of the curb that divided us.
During a lull in the conversation a woman said to me, in a voice full of understanding, compassion and pity, "You must wish yourself out of the wheelchair at times like these."
Now, I know like I seem to be constantly thinking about disability and accessibility and prejudice and writing letters of complaint - but I don't always and I wasn't then. I mean really inaccessibility is a pretty constant experience of being disabled and one does get used to being in driveways while others are in parks pretty damn quickly. So her comment caught me off guard - pulling me back into what what actually happening and away from a moment of just enjoying the kids in play.
And when I was back into what was actually happening I realised that I wasn't and hadn't spent time wishing myself out of the wheelchair. You see I learned very early on, long before being in a wheelchair, not to give to disability what doesn't belong to disability. My being in a wheelchair wasn't why I wasn't in the playground with the kids, the fact that there was an uncut curb caused that. Why spend time on wishing I wasn't who I was, when who I am is who I am? Why not spend time wishing for changes that are possible ... cut curbs and wider doors? Inaccessibility isn't about being a wheelchair user, inaccessibility is concrete prejudice.
I simply said, "I don't wish to be out of the wheelchair, I do wish to have the same rights to access the playground that you have."
She smiled a smile that told me she thought me brave.
Thankfully then, Sadie screamed with laughter and I could move back into the moment. The kids were having fun, I was successfully dodging cars, Joe was laughing watching the kids be kids. And magically, without wishing, it became a nice morning again.