Wednesday, September 27, 2017


We should have shouted.

The line up was really long. People had frayed patience. All of us had had long travel days. We landed in Vancouver and like a 100 other people needed a rental car. We approached the desk and asked for a specific kind of car that they had in their fleet and the guy behind the counter, when he saw me in my wheelchair, told us we didn't want that kind of car, it was too small. We said that we'd rented it before, it works perfectly and in fact because it worked so perfectly we had bought one.

He insisted that it wasn't big enough and refused to even look for it because, of course, he is the expert on my needs. We pressed him a couple of times but he didn't listen and gave us the keys to a car that was bigger and much better for us. We went to the car and I knew immediately that it was good to be a struggle. I need cars where there isn't much of a lip at the door for getting in and out. This one had a big one. I got in. I got out. But it was work.

We were tired, we'd flown for 6 hours and now had a 5 hour drive ahead of us. So we just left in the car. Right from the outset I had to brace myself for getting out. That lip seemed to get taller and the foot well seemed to get deeper. And then it happened ...

... I started to make different decision. Where normally I'd get out of the car and go in somewhere with Joe, I decided instead to stay in the car. I started every morning counting how many times in and how many times  out. As my legs tire it gets harder each time to get out.

Because he wouldn't listen.

Because we didn't shout.

But let's be honest, shouting may not have helped. It could have just made matters worse. The line up behind us was long and pressing in. Everyone wanted to be on their way.

We have this car for a few more days. I'm counting that down too.

Too often people with disabilities are victims of the expertise of others. Too often people who have no idea about disability claim to know more than disabled people do, and about their own disability.

No you don't know what I need.

I do.

I'm the expert in me.

Yesterday I so badly didn't want to get in or out that I rolled from the venue to the hotel. It's a long push, but some of it is downhill, I can't push there but I can push back.

Well, today is another day to tick off and soon we can get rid of this damn car and hope that at our next stop we get someone with ears working at the counter.


Unknown said...

Having functional ears does not a listener make. Shouting also does not make them listen all they hear is the tone and volume. Myself I repeat as many times as necessary or ask them if they can explain back to me what I am requesting so that I am sure they heard me. I once had someone answer me "I am not obligated to answer you back as I heard you". My answer "I am not obligated to use your service or give you a good review".
Sorry for the discomfort and inconvenience.

Shannon said...

Don't you love it when other people think they know what you need better than you do.

clairesmum said...

Everyone has a supervisor - if not in the room, then on the phone.
Or take yourself to a different rental car counter if that is an option...tho no guarantee of better luck, of course.

And I hate to say this...but i wonder if it would be different if Joe did the communication? As a woman I am clear that I can and do speak for myself..but I admit that at the auto mechanic, I don't even try - I make my husband do it. (not that he knows more, but that the car shop guys argue less...and are often uncomfortable by a smart woman).. My intense aversion to being ridiculed or cheated because of my appearance/gender is the cause..
in travel situations such as this, does expediency trump all the other issues, knowing that the health risks for you in having equipment you KNOW creates risk of injury for you? you are not being neurotic or irrationally stubborn.....

again, questions that are not my business really to ask..and certainly not for you to answer to me or to the offense intended, Dave and Joe.

ABEhrhardt said...

What? What an idiot. Do be sure to let higher management know.

And could you have requested a supervisor there? Shouting doesn't help, but I believe if you request a supervisor or manager they have to comply - and that person might be more willing to listen properly.

You're not a psychic - but they make you almost have to be one to know ahead of time what to ask.

More and more, I want to see you write a book which will help other disabled travelers. And give you an outlet for the shouting where it will do more good.

Unknown said...

This is why I've been housebound and bedbound for 6 years instead of having a suitable wheelchair to move around and go out in, because *everybody* thinks theyre a better 'expert' on my needs than me the person who lives every moment in my body with these disabilities. Shouting doesnt make a difference, neither does whispering, being polite, being assertive or anything else. However I try to say 'this is what I need' the response is always to ignore me because what would a mere cripple know about their own needs. Its infuriating and meanwhile my life slips away :( Why can't able bodied people just listen to us?

Rachel said...

Why won't they listen? Because somehow a purely physical disability automatically means in some people's minds that we're intellectually disabled as well. And we all know what The Man thinks about and how he treats them! Not as full people, certainly. It's a lethal combination of ignorance and stupidity.

Afer all, Dave's a big guy. He must automatically need a big car! "I OWN ONE." "It won't work for you." WTF???

L said...

I had an experience today in which two people acted like they knew my needs better than I did.

Me: Am catching lift from the train platform to the upstairs concourse at the train station.

The lift doors open, there are two women on very large mobility scooters waiting to use the lift.

The woman between 55 and 75 is some distance away, and not an issue.

The woman between 45 and 50 is blocking my ability to exit the lift. She has yellow L plates on her mobility scooter.

There is a train-station staff member standing right there, apparently to assist the other two women, but he does not say or do anything during the whole interaction.

Me: Can you please move, I need more room to exit the lift.

L-plater, [dismissively]: You have tonnes of room.

(This is not true: if I move forwards without the L-plater moving out of my way, my body and powerchair will bang painfully into her body, mobility scooter and handbag.)

Me: I've been using my powerchair since 2010, I know how much room I need. I need more room, I need you to reverse backwards a bit so I can get out of the lift.

Older woman, [angrily]: God, how much room do you need.

L-plater: refuses to move, verbal abuse, swears at me repeatedly, complains about how much time this is all taking and how they are both going to miss their train.

Me: I cannot get out of the lift until you move out of my way, I can't do a sharp turn, I need to go straight ahead.

L-plater: moves out of my way, but as soon as I start moving forwards slowly, she quickly and dangerously starts moving her mobility scooter right back into my way, on a collision course with me.

Me: stops dead.

Me: I need you to stay out of my way and not move while I am going past you, it is dangerous for you to move into my path while I am trying to exit the lift.

L plater: refuses to move out of my way and stay out of my way so I can exit lift.

Me: repeats politely but firmly that it's dangerous for her to rapidly move into a collision course with me while I am trying to exit the lift.

L plater and other woman [angrily]: Verbal abuse combined with swearing at me repeatedly.
"You need to lose weight!" (This is particularly ironic since both women are either equally as fat as me, or fatter than me.)
"If you've been driving your powerchair since 2010, you need to go back to school and learn how to drive it again."

Older woman: deliberately moves her mobility scooter directly into my path, making it impossible for me to get out of the lift.

Me: Look, I've got chronic pain, I can't turn sharply, I need room to maneuver safely.

Them [angrily/dismissively]: We've got chronic pain too.

I think if a similar situation happens again, I will just press the door close button, take the lift back downstairs again, and get off again at the downstairs exit.

Which will delay the people refusing to move out of my way much longer than if they just moved out of my way, but I refuse to have this fight again.

If someone tells you that you need to move so that they can safely exit the lift, you need to move so that they can safely exit the lift.

I'm particularly hurt/disappointed since I expected better of fellow disabled people. I know that one woman had L-plates, but I repeatedly calmly told her exactly what I needed her to do so that I could safely get past her, and she responded with a tirade of swearing and verbal abuse at me.

By contrast, it is school holidays at the moment, and I had to negotiate sharing space/exiting or entering lifts and passing on the footpath with (no exaggeration) more than 50 prams/strollers today, and not one of the parents gave me the slightest bit of hassle. The parents all treated me in a "we're all in this together, I'll move out of your way if you need me to without being annoyed about it" way.

Ranvaig said...

I have trouble lifting my legs to get over a car threshold too. I have Charcot foot, and my left foot is twisted. I carry a long strap (actually and old martial arts belt but a bit of belting or a gait belt would do the same thing).

Its about 7 feet long and tied in a circle. I transfer from my wheelchair to the car seat then slide my foot into the loop which I can lift to ease my leg in. Actually, I keep my foot in the loop because it helps me adjust my foot when it gets uncomfortable.

I've also used it when I fell and couldnt get up on my own. With the belt behind my back and under my arms, helpers can pull the other end, instead of pulling my arms and likely hurting my shoulder.