Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Different Coming Out

Sometimes there is a depth of sadness that comes with disability that is frighteningly deep. I felt it today coming home from meeting with and speaking to wonderful people up in Owen Sound. We were driving up Church Street and there's a place that I would desperately like to go. If you don't mind I'm not going to tell you where that is, it's kind of personal, and I'm not sure that, if you heard where it was you would understand why I felt like I did. Anyway, I glanced over and saw it.

I knew it was inaccessible. I realize it anew every time I go by. My first thought is always, "Oh, I'd like to go there." My second thought is, "Oh yeah, it's not accessible." People speak about accessibility and inaccessibility all the time, I have have done so myself many times here. But, I'm coming out. I'm going to state, categorically, that sometimes the experience of wanting to go somewhere and not being able to because it has one step, as in this case, or ten steps as in many other cases, is devastating emotionally. In short, it hurts. Really hurts.

Today I had the 'Oh, I ..' and the 'Oh, yeah ..' experience again and suddenly, felt like weeping, just letting go and crying. The sadness I felt at the simple fact that I can't go somewhere that I really want to go because ... and here's where this thinking is dangerous ... I have a disability.

I had to wrench myself away from that thinking. That's thinking that will lead, for me, to depression. I had to remind myself that the source of my sadness is the inaccessibility, the concrete barrier, the prejudice built into design, that I was faced with, not the wheelchair I sat in. The wheelchair that carried me up to Owen Sound, the wheelchair that made the lecture possible, the wheelchair that gave me the life I have.

But none of that matters.

What matters here and what I want to say, is that there is a deep sadness, a barbed sadness that hurts when you swallow it down, that comes from watching others step in to where you can never go.

I've pulled myself up from where that feeling left me, but my emotional muscles will be sore tomorrow.

Inaccessibility isn't just inconvenient, it hurts.

Really. Deeply. Hurts.

7 comments:

Frank_V said...

We are far more limited by society's lack of imagination and willpower, than we are by our own physical limitations. Are we disabled, or, are contractors and designers just plain stupid, or even worse, morally bankrupt? I vote for the latter two opotions.

Also, how STUPID is it, to design and make buildings that might exclude oneself in the unforeseeable future? We can put humans on the moon, but we can't get ourselves easily up to different levels of a building?

Cari Watrous said...

Really hits home, Dave, thank you for expressing it so succinctly. I've been caught up in the pain and depression cycle as disability had been majorly impacted by the aging processed - my disability is not aging gracefully. I'm sorry you and so many others know that cycle, thankfully we have each other

Kristine said...

This is another one of those "thank you for saying it" moments for me. I've dealt with inaccessibility my whole life, and I know that compared to those born earlier than me, my experiences have been relatively good. You'd think I'd be able to handle inaccessibility as a thing that happens... But sometimes it just strikes my heart in unexpected moments. The emotion hits hard, and I find myself crying, often about a place I didn't even want to go THAT badly. But knowing that I can't really does hurt... I needed that validation, that it's ok to feel that hurt. Thank you!

Ranvaig said...

Oh yes. I think the worst was when my daughter wanted to be somewhere that I couldn't take her.
Sharon

h smith said...

I spent most of my life being dirt poor so not being able to access places and things that others take for granted was my everyday experience. But I could always access 'nature' for free and so it was much easier to shrug off all the stuff out of my reach. But wheelchairs take even nature from us, and it breaks my heart how much more of the world I'm now excluded from

Jess S said...

Yep. Just....yep. It really, deeply does hurt.😔

Sherry-Lynn K said...

My son is pretty laid back and tends to do the whole, "It's not a big deal..." but as his mom, I am really pushing for him to be a stronger self-advocate. I keep telling him (while he rolls his teenage eyes), "It IS a big deal. It's a really big deal, and it's NOT ok that there are things you can not do because you can't even get inside the freaking doors, or down the path, or because the bathroom isn't even accessible. It IS a big deal!" It's hard for me to watch him just accept that the world is often not accessible and I am hoping that, as he gets older, he'll fight a little harder for a world where he doesn't have to miss out.