I acknowledge right off the bat that I'm going to sound like a petty minded, ungrateful and perhaps even bitter, man. Even so, I am committed to write accurately about my experience as a man with a disability and therefore I'm going to go ahead.
Yesterday when I got home to the apartment, riding over really icy sidewalks all the way, I was alone. Joe had popped into a small local grocer to pick up a couple of tomatoes and we'd agreed to meet back at the apartment. There was no one around so I went into the manoeuvres that are required for me to get both doors open and get myself through all at the same time. I learned to do this soon after I started using the chair, it was one of my first real accomplishments as someone new to being in the world on wheels.
A few moments later I was in.
The security guard who sits at the concierge desk was 'on patrol' so that meant that I was to let myself in. This took me, I'm embarrassed to say, almost four years to figure out. I have to use a key, but the door pulls open on the same side as my controls, I can't open the door and drive through at the same time. But chance and circumstance had me, one day, holding the door open for a young couple moving in. I realized then that I can pull the door open with my left hand, then still holding on, I can simply turn the chair backwards and back in. Voila! I was in.
And that's what I did. It worked like a charm and I was in, warm and comfy, waiting for Joe to get back in. I was actually able to open the door for him when he got there. A nice change.
Here's where I'm going to sound petty. I was thrilled. Just thrilled that there was no one around to help me. People are often very kind and rush to get the doors for me. I appreciate that, I do. I really do. Let me emphasize that again, I do appreciate people's willingness to help. I've learned, over time, to accept the help and say thank you - and even mean it. But, sometimes, just sometimes, I'd like to do what I can do without the burden of being helped to do something I don't need help with. I know it takes me longer, I know I do it in a complicated manner, but I can still do it. I sat in the lobby waiting freed of the weight of gratitude.
When this happens I am always reminded of, very early on in my career, helping a young woman with a disability to do something that she could do herself. She stood her ground and said, "You aren't helping! You are in my way!!" I was startled at first and later when recounting this with a co-worker, I was told that she could be "rude." I said then, and think now, that she wasn't rude at all. I think she'd learned to assert herself in such a way that allowed her voice to be heard. Over time, people stopped helping her do what she could do herself and, magically, her rudeness disappeared.
Because my relationship with those who jump into help is one of stranger to stranger, not staff to resident, I've not gone the rude route. But I understand her frustration, now, more than I did then. You work hard to get skills, you want to use them. And when you need help, you ask.
Again, I am appreciative of people's willingness to help me with the door. If there had been someone there yesterday who helped me, I'd have said 'thank you' and I'd have meant it.
It's nice to have only myself to thank.