I was asked recently, at a conference, during a chat with someone I'd never met before, an interesting question. I get disability questions all the time. Some about how I'm coping as a person with a disability. Other, intrusive ones, about my diagnosis and my medical history. I answer the coping questions and stare down the inappropriate ones. This time though, it was a fun question, "What's the most unusual thing that's changed since you've become disabled?"
The first things that popped into my mind were about the loss of status, the loss of respect and the loss of voice. I thought, too, about the stereotypes and the assumptions which are made about my life as a disabled man. I thought, I realised, way more about attitudinal changes than physical barriers, but I thought of those too. But instantly I knew that these weren't "unusual" changes. I think that they typify the life of many people with disabilities and if I thought about it before becoming a wheelchair user, I would have predicted many of those. So, I asked permission to think about it, then write it in a blog. I've emailed Jessie saying that this post was going up today.
5 unusual things:
1) When I use cologne I spray the top of my head. I never did that before. But I figure that if anyone is helping me or leaning down to talk to me, that's the part of me that they are the closest too. I never, ever, would have predicted that.
2) I have a nearly flawless ability to look at a carpet and know it's character. Many carpets are difficult to roll on one way and easier to roll on the other. I can glance at a carpet and know if going or coming is going to be more work.
3) So visible easy to miss - people talk to each other, standing right by me, completely as if I'm not there. I can roll around a store and be seen and not considered. It's a bloggers dream. I've actually had someone say to a friend, waiting outside a store, stand beside me and say, "Good, we're alone, we can talk."
4) Most of the stuff out of reach, you don't need anyways.
5) I am very aware of poop, vomit and snot. There is a lot more poop on the street than you might think. Saturday mornings are treacherous. The number of people who shoot snot out of their noses and on to the street is vastly more than I'd first thought. I have to touch my tires, I have to roll on the street. I'm pretty good, in my manual chair, at guiding my wheels to so that I miss the offending material. but sometimes it's unavoidable. If I'm in my power chair, I try to find some grass to roll on, or I do circles before entering a building, if I'm in my manual I ensure that I push on the wheel's grab bar and not on the rubber of the tire. Poop, vomit and snot were not things I thought about before.
It was a fun thing to think about so ... readers, tell me, what's the most unusual thing that's changed since disability entered your life??