Friday, November 18, 2016


"Hi, how are you?"

It was the wrong question to ask me at that time. I'm at a conference and facing a lot of issues regarding accessibility. I have to be in a different hotel because the host hotel doesn't have fully accessible rooms, there is no where for me to sit in my wheelchair in the sessions except the wide aisles, and the straw that broke me was the fact that the washroom on the conference level floor isn't accessible and I have to push down to the elevators and ride down. I had to wait as people streamed around me to the washrooms to get my chair turned around and get out of there. Then I had to find where the accessible washroom was, and then I had to get there.

I was upset.

I was angry.

My arms were tired from pushing on really thick carpet.

Then, just about at the washroom, I saw someone I knew who said, "Hi, how are you?" and I lost every social skill that I had. I launched into a series of complaints, I talked about my toileting needs, I talked about my chair placement. I dumped it all out. It wasn't pretty because I was pretty worked up.

Then Joe appeared and indicated that the downstairs washroom was indeed accessible and I rolled off.

I didn't even ask her how she was.

Yep, a social skills meltdown.

A few minutes later, back in a conference session, I began to think about how I just took that opening and ran with it. I know we know each other but, really, did she need that in her day?

Having a disability often means carrying around a bit of anger and frustration. But I don't want it to make me into an angry and frustrated man. I want to be aware of the needs and feelings of others, not just focused on my issues, my feelings and my needs.

I want to disconnect myself, from a set of circumstances, in order to connect with another person.

And I didn't do that.



Unknown said...

oh's hard to be human, isn't it?

ABEhrhardt said...

Everyone has a breaking point, or, better still, a 'full up' point.

You have so much stuff to deal with, that even though you have a huge capacity for BS, developed over years, it is too much, often.

Part of pushing yourself around means using up energy - a choice between two problems.

If you can just remember at the end of a rant to mention you're having a very bad day... Maybe she would have shared hers.

I think you're too hard on yourself, but I also think you've been pushing yourself extra-hard lately - and it never comes without a price.

Unknown said...

Honestly, I don't ask people how they are unless I'm willing to LISTEN to the answer. And if all you're up to hearing is a polite "fine," I would prefer you just say hello. I no longer lie and say "fine" when people ask me how I am or how I'm doing because I don't want to perpetuate the false idea that everything is AOK because I'm out in the world. How can we raise awareness of the obstacles we face as disabled people if we don't respond honestly when faced with those obstacles? If people we know, or people we meet, hear us talking about accessibility fails right where they are/when they are happening, maybe they will develop some empathy and insight into our lives?