Sometimes I wonder if it's just me.
I guess not.
Since becoming a wheelchair user I've been astounded and frustrated by the, sometimes, inexplicable behaviour of those without disabilities. There are many examples but today I'm talking about doors. Yes. Doors. I first noticed it at the subway. The stop near us has four doors, one of which is the automatic accessible door, the kind that opens at the touch of a button. It's right at the top of the ramp so it's well placed. It's really, really, really difficult to get in or out of that door because the thousands of people who use the subway prefer to use that door. There are three other doors, but they pour through that one. It doesn't make sense because most of them don't use the ramp, which is long and narrow. They go through that door and then filter round to the stairs which are situated right in front of the other three doors. There are times when I just can't get in or out, we have to wait for a break in the constant stream or Joe has to go and physically block people so I can get into or out of the subway. People can become incredibly hostile when he does this and I worry sometimes that he's going to be struck.
The same is true down at the accessible doors at the Eaton Centre. They are great wide doors and, again, getting in or out is very, very, difficult. Here there are a multitude of door possibilities for everyone else. This is the only entry that's easily accessible. There are other doors but they don't have the button, Joe has to be with me to hold them open and they are a bit narrow for my chair. So we prefer the accessible door but again we have to have a degree of assertiveness in order to get through the door.
We've both talked about this phenomenon and Joe's even asked me if I was going to blog about it. I never had because I wondered if this was a 'just me' thing - or if others with disabilities found the same thing, having access but battling to use it. So, it was just something I'd let go.
Until this weekend.
Joe had gone to do some banking, I'd headed over to the Bay to pick something up. I scooted back to meet him. I came into the bank and was sitting waiting for one of the two big doors to swing open for me. As I was waiting a tall, young, man finished at the bank machine and had positioned himself waiting for me to get through the door. He stood there looking impatient. An elderly woman, dressed in tweeds, was doing her banking sitting on her walker. As she finished she turned around. She noted the man standing, impatient. She noted me waiting for the door to swing fully open.
She spoke in one of those deep, dark, voices full of pavement become gravel.
"There are two fucking doors."
Everyone was stunned. She was looking at him hard. The kind of look that mothers give children. The kind of look that only mothers can give. I could see by the set of her shoulders that she had had enough. And she was right. There WERE two doors. Yet he stood there waiting for me, obviously waiting for me, to come through the automatic door. She said what I realized I'd longed to say over and over again.
I wonder if it's easier to advocate for someone else than it is to advocate for yourself.
But, I'll tell you this. Never before have I been so glad to have someone speak up and speak out on my behalf. I didn't care if everyone thought what she said was vulgar or inappropriate or whatever. I just cared that she saw someone trying to shame me by being PURPOSEFULLY and UNNECESSARILY inconvenienced.
Because, of course, there were two fucking doors.