Friday, December 08, 2017


My office is moving in a few weeks and yesterday I was downstairs looking at the space the team and I will be moving into. We had a great discussion of set up and design and we talked about colour and furniture and all felt growing excitement about the move.

I mentioned that my only concern was the elevator and explained that how there wasn't enough turn radius when getting on at that floor because it's a smallish elevator. I had tried once before and simply couldn't do it. I'd have to take off my footrests to manage.

I offered to demonstrate, so everyone came over and I pushed the elevator button and then when the door opened, got on easily. I was mortified. After my big speech about how it was going to be something I'd have to think a way through, I got on simply and easily.

Over the next several minutes I thought about it. I had gone to that floor of the building only once or twice early on as a wheelchair user. It was really hard, impossible actually to get the chair onto the elevator without taking off the feet. I know that was true, I remember it clearly. The difference was that I am now a fully experienced wheelchair user and I know how to maximize space, even create space for the chair. It's something that happens naturally in my head.

I couldn't do it then.

I can do it now.

Now I have to wonder how many early tries and early fails have led me to decide that something is impossible not realizing that my skills would grow and being a wheelchair user is a skill based way to exist in the world.

I'm going to have to be careful about things I've dismissed as not possible. Oh, joy, more things to think about, that's work, but oh joy, maybe I've new experiences waiting behind doors I thought to narrow.


Shannon said...

This reminds me of something I read yesterday about how the brain may learn to treat the wheelchair as part of the body. I don't really think of my wheelchair as part of my body or even an extension of my body - rather something that I need to get around, I get in it and use it, and it's mine and nobody should touch it without asking me. But maybe my brain thinks its part of me? I don't even usually think of using a wheelchair as a skill, but I know it is... the process of getting better at it and something that may happen without us thinking of it. I never worry about doors and I'm not daunted by pushing my chair in crowds - two things that non-wheelchair users (and some wheelchair users do really have difficulty with these) think of as tremendous obstacles. I often get a "you're really good with that thing!" from strangers even when pushing it in simple situations, e.g. down a hall. I guess they are thinking of how difficult they might find it.. or maybe they've tried pushing a clunky hospital chair. One thing we as wheelchair users learn without thinking is knowing how much space we need.. something that is usually over or underestimated by people who walk.

ABEhrhardt said...

Worth being mortified about!

So many things go the other way, gradually getting harder and less possible.

I'm sure you all had a good laugh, but Woo Hoo!

Congratulations on being wrong - for a great reason.

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

I think there has also been studies on how blind people learn to think of their white canes as an extension of themselves, particularly the tip of the cane that they use to find out about obstacles on the ground and so forth.