Wednesday, June 13, 2012


I am afraid.

I just talked to Joe on the phone and he told me that, in our apartment building, two of the three elevators are down.

I am afraid.

I will be trapped in.

I am afraid.

I will be trapped out.

I am afraid.

I am tolerated in the building. Me with my big wheelchair and need for space, I'm tolerated by people who have a need for great distance from my disability. They cram in together, 10, 12 of them, rubbing elbows, and yet are fearful on their two feet if they aren't also two feet from my chair.

I am afraid.

I am tolerated in the building. Me with my need to take a little bit of time backing into the elevator, I'm tolerated by people who have a need for everything to be instantaneous. I am snail mail, they are text messages.

I am afraid.

I am anxious about getting up to my apartment and out again when I need. But I am only anxious about that. I fear my neighbours. I fear their annoyance. I fear the deafening sound of eyes rolling.

I am afraid.

Last time. I sat for 40 minutes as elevator after elevator of people, packed like sardines, looked out but didn't see me, the only one who couldn't use stairs, waiting. Finally, Joe had to go get help from the superintendents or I would never have been able to leave.

I am afraid.

In moments like these of the violence of the social disapproval that comes when 'tolerance' isn't enough to cover the inconvenience of me. And my chair. And my body. And my space.

I am afraid.

My disability requires my adaption. But it requires adaption of others as well. I don't mind. They do.

I am afraid.

Of going home.


Shan said...

Ain't nothin' to say except

Holy smokes, I bet you are.

Huge validation coming from over here, dear Uncle Dave. I respect your feelings.

My prayers are for your comfort and safety until this elevator situation is dealt with.

Anonymous said...

What would you do if all the elevators were down? I'd be afraid too. I got trapped on the fifth floor at work, twice, by power outages. It really wasn't an emergency.. but I was completely freaked out.

Might be time to get one of those emergency stair gadgets you posted about. Although I wonder what we are supposed to do at the bottom when our wheels are still up there?

I hope they have them fixed soon.

wheeliecrone said...

I once lived on an upper floor. I could not stand the fear. The fear of an electrical outage that would lock me in or lock me out.
I moved to a villa. I can roll in and out without fear.
I am lucky in that I had the opportunity to move to ground floor accommodation. But - I understand the fear.
I, too, hope that your elevator is repaired soonest.

Anonymous said...

I sure can identify with the fear. Had a fire alarm go off in a hotel once - of course - you can't use the elevators. Panic or what!!! It is a fear most don't understand.

I am confused why you feel you are "tolerated in the building". You said it twice. Why? Do you not pay rent like everyone else?

You have every right to use the buildings facilities - which includes elevators. Others - they have options - they can take the stairs. And shame on them for not letting you on last time - shame.

Think of the words you are thinking: afraid, trapped, tolerated, snail mail, anxious, fear, eyes rolling, violence, social disapproval, inconvenience...hmmm - not much positive in there.

You also constantly remark about your size - read over your last few months of blogs. Should it be such as issue? Could it be you hold prejudice against heavy/fat folks? You sure are hard on yourself!!!

Remember who you are and what you do - for others and those you love. Remember the standing ovation!

Andrea S. said...

To anonymous: I think Dave frequently comments on his size because he is conscious that OTHERS sometimes respond to him negatively because of it. Yes, he has mentioned his size ... but often in the context of strangers making mocking jokes about it within his hearing or other negative reactions. Being anxious about needing to deal with other people's prejudices does not mean that one shares the same prejudice.

Prejudice against wheelchair riders, as well as against others with various disabilities, is commonplace. As a deaf walking person, the barriers and prejudice I face is not precisely the same as what Dave faces, but there are certain similarities. For example, as deaf person, I often need for hearing people to repeat things, or to write things down (or type them out) if lipreading isn't working. Some hearing people are fine with this, but others for whatever reasons simply refuse to do this, or occasionally seem to be perplexed by the whole notion of using writing as a mode of communication. So in certain contexts, I too feel I am only "tolerated" at best and not really included. This does not mean that I am universally in a bad environment or that I am seeing everything negatively--there are plenty of contexts, including in the office where I work now and elsewhere, where I am indeed included and need not be afraid of other people getting impatient if I need something repeated yet again. But these positive experiences do not erase the situations where my communication needs are met with annoyance and rejection instead. (Or vice versa for that matter).

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

I join Shan in prayers for your comfort and safety.


Baba Yaga said...

Wowch. That brings it home...

Shan said it so well, nothing to do but echo her respect and wishes for your comfort as well as safety.

Moose said...

I live in a non-accessible apartment. There is a step outside my door and a step from the small deck outside my door to the sidewalk.

I do not yet have a wheeled mobility device. I can barely get up and down those two steps while "walking". There is no handrail. I leave the house perhaps twice a week, in a good week. My vehicle is 55 slow and painful steps from my front door.

I've lived here for 3 yrs. My options are limited. I cannot afford any 'normal' housing that is accessible, but have applications in to specialized 'affordable' complexes with an accessible apartment.

This winter was mild, which was a mixed blessing. The previous two winters, I was trapped in my apartment from mid-December through mid-March. With no handrail, the risk of falling with snow and ice on the ground is too high. I could not leave my little 500 sqft apartment.

During those three months I got out about once a month when someone would come help me get down the two steps. I live alone. I know 3 people locally, all are 45 or more minutes away.

Your neighbors are jerks.

Anonymous said...

Moose, my heart goes out to you. Your story is a perfect example of why every artichect and every construction agency needs to be throughly familiar with, and committed to, the principles of Universal Design: every home should be a home that a disabled person could live in, or visit, without needing to be confined there due to steps or other barriers. Accessibility shouldn't just be about making public infrastructure accessible. We ought to be able to not only go out and about independently but also be just as independent and mobile at (and to/from) our own homes.

Andrea S.

Princeton Posse said...

Yikes, Dave. Very scary situation. Take care. Makes me think of some sort of slide for stairs...

Pat said...

I don't mean to be critical but maybe you should fear being misunderstood too. I thought this post was about the social aspects of being down to one shared elevator, not the fact that your building was down to one elevator. People here don't seem to want to talk about the prejudice and discrimination and hostility being described. I guess it's easier to talk about physical modifications than the pain that comes from feeling tolerated rather than welcomed.

CapriUni said...

Echoing Pat.

To borrow your turn of phrase: There are many things I'm anxious about, but what I fear the most is other people's fear of me.

Because that is what is so isolating. And because there is so little I can do to alleviate it in the moment.