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.