Monday, September 11, 2017

Help That Hurts

After learning that I would not be able to take the shuttle over to pick up the rental car I had to go back across to the airport sidewalk to wait to be picked up. To do this I would have to push uphill across a busy street, but no worries there was a police officer directing traffic, and then up the curb cut on the other side. I checked it all out before pushing off and determined that the street was no problem but the curb cut on the other side was steep. Even so, I was confident and pushed on to the street when the traffic was stopped and headed over.

I made it across quickly and then was working hard at pushing myself up the curb cut. It was, as I predicted, hard pushing, but it also was, as I'd also predicted, doable. I was just nearing the top, I was bent right over and about to swing back when suddenly my chair was grabbed, from behind, and I was pushed, hard, up the rest of the way. This caused me to fly back in my chair, snapping my neck as I flew back and my arms flung out.

Just before swearing at the person who'd pushed me, the person who'd HURT me I noticed that it was the police officer. I said, because I had to say something, I was hurt and angry. That the push had hurt me and that he should always ask before pushing and that what he'd done was dangerous. I don't think he registered anything but the fact that I was ungrateful.

Disabled people have bodies. Our bodies react to being pushed, or startled, or both and often pain results. It's days later and my shoulders are still hurting and my neck complains when I lay down to sleep.

I don't know what to do about this. I don't know how to get heard. Those who read this blog are already sensitized to this issue but how do we get passed the barrier between disabled and non-disabled? Why can they always hear 'thank you,' they are in love with our gratitude, but they can't hear even a simple, reasonable request. DON'T FUCKING HURT ME.


Shannon said...

I explain this to non-disabled people when the situation arises and some of them get it. I just got some flip-down push handles on my wheelchair to discourage people from grabbing and pushing but I am not sure it will work - there is still something to grab onto.

Ron Arnold said...

American police are known for their propensity to protect and serve the life out of folks. To be honest - I'm glad to hear it wasn't worse.

Unknown said...

You wrote a column once about how the chair is not just a chair, but it is part of you.....and just as we don't touch people without permission, it's not ok to touch the WC, either...

but no, i don't have any idea how to get this idea across to the general public, either....

sorry you've got such a pain in the neck, Dave.


ABEhrhardt said...

Ask the person doing it if they would have shoved a little old lady.

At least, maybe they will learn.

A sign on the back of your chair: 'Do not touch without asking first' ' Do NOT touch' 'Ask before helping' 'Ask before touching' 'Delicate - don't touch'? Big cloth banner you can put on when alone, take off easily.

Unknown said...

I hate this too. On my first day at my new college, I asked directions to an outer building- they're renovating, and the maps are mostly useless. A smiling lady offered to show me, and I gladly accepted. She told me all about how she worked in the office, and was a big fan of accessibility.

Then she grabbed me and pushed up the second half of a long ramp, on which I was not struggling.

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

I once knew someone who had her finger broken because someone grabbed and shoved her wheelchair without asking or even issuing any kind of warning, which meant she didn't even have time to move her fingers away from where they were placed.

I also have known people who have fallen over because someone snatching the door that they were trying to open--and also leaning on for balance at the same time, because that's how you open a door when you would otherwise normally be leaning that weight on your crutches.

I don't know either how to get the message out there that people need to ASK the disabled person whether they want or need assistance before proceeding. Partly as a matter of respect for the person's dignity and autonomy, but also as a simple matter of SAFETY. Some wheelchairs (especially power chairs) are more fragile or breakable than they seem if maneuvered incorrectly. And some wheelchair users, depending on the exact nature of their condition, may also injure more easily than others. What may be perfectly safe to do with one wheelchair user (assuming you have received their permission first!) may not be safe with another. And ANYBODY in ANY kind of chair could be potentially injured if they are suddenly shoved without warning.

Andrea S.