Wyoming Wheelchair Accessible (is sometimes not so much)

It’s funny how different people perceive “wheelchair accessible”.  In California, people are quick to not label things in that manner because they don’t want to be sued.  (Ok, I don’t know if that’s entirely true.  What I do know is that California is too litigious and people want easy dollars.)  In Wyoming, it’s the opposite.  Blue curbs have no ramps adjoining them.  It’s like “Hey, we gave you the space designated.  Figure out the rest on your own.”  It’s just a different mindset up here.  People are tough.  They’re resilient.  Where I live in California, you have to fight for a handicapped parking space because every person over 72 has a placard and thinks that old = handicapped.  In Wyoming, cowboys are farming into their 90’s.  “I don’t need no stinking handicapped spot!” is the mentality of every weathered cowboy and nimble old biddy.  They’re tough.  They’re good people.

While I do love that mentality (because I like to think that I am a pretty tough chick) it does sometimes give me some concern.  For example, we rented a cabin for our stay.  We like to have a home base, a place where our dogs feel at home.  They’re not really hotel dogs because they like to bark at noises.  So cabins are good for us.  The cabin we rented didn’t have a picture of the front entry way, but the owner assured me that there was only a little lip that I could easily jump.  The rest of the house was easy access.  We were still going to bring my ramps, just in case.  Unless I can see that there are no steps, I get uneasy.  The owner told the hubs that they built a ramp for me to the front door.  (In addition to being tough, the people in Wyoming are so super nice!) The owners of the cabin we rented last year also built me a ramp.  (The people in Wyoming are also super handy.)

Cabin

When we got to the cabin, we saw the ramp.  It was really nice and sturdy.  I’m also glad they built it, because it was more than just a lip that I could jump.  It was a full on step that would have been pretty difficult.  The cabin was really nice.  The living room, dining room and kitchen were all very open and easy for me to get around with.  If the cabin had been only those rooms, then yes, I would agree that it was wheelchair accessible.

However, cabins are more than just the common area.  They’re also comprised of bedrooms and bathrooms.  [Do you see where I am going with this?]  I tried to get into the master bedroom.  I didn’t fit through the sliding glass doors leading to it.  Ruh-roh.  That’s OK!  There are 2 other bedrooms! I thought to myself.  Or, possibly said it outloud to the hubs, trying to reassure him.  I tried one of the other bedroom doors and it was easy to get through.  Problem solved!

Or, was it?  Let’s check out the 2nd bathroom, where the shower is.  Awesome…the door is about 2 inches too small for my wheelchair to get through.  So, if this bathroom is too small and I can’t get into the master, how the heck am I going to go to the bathroom?!  The hubs and one of our friends who had come up with us decided to try taking the sliding door into the master off of the track.  With the door gone, I was now able to get into the master bedroom.  (We just had to hope that the hubs could get it back on by himself cause our friends were only here for 1 week.)  Next came the master bathroom door test.  Score!  I can fit into that bathroom!  Everything worked out!

Or had it?  The master bathroom didn’t have a shower.  Only a tub.  A big, deep, jetted tub.  How the heck am I supposed to use that?!  I can’t fit into the other bathroom with the shower.  And this bathroom only has a tub.  So…my options were to either not shower for a month or channel my inner Wyoming resilience and figure it out.  Getting into the tub wasn’t an issue.  I’m able to transfer to the ledge, put my legs over and lower myself in.  (Luckily I have great upper body strength.  Otherwise, it wouldn’t have worked.)  Getting out is where the issue lies.  I had to prop up on my knees, hoist myself over the ledge (where I felt like I was going to fall head first into the toilet), then twist around to my back and sit up.  It’s so awkward and so hard.  But, I was able to do it.  (Again, so glad that I have upper body strength!)  (Oh, while taking a bath is nice, the tub is so big that you can’t even fill it halfway because the hot water runs out.  And to wash my hair, I feel like an original homesteader who has to use a bucket to pour water over their head.  When I get home, I’m taking an hour long shower just to enjoy the ease of it all.  Sorry California drought.)

While I’m able to figure it all out with minimal some complaining, the point is that I did figure it out.  I usually don’t mind when things are an inconvenience for me, because I figure such is life.  I hate being an inconvenience on other people though.  Case in point: we are actually sleeping in one of the spare rooms because the bed in the master is also too high for me to get into alone and the hubs had to hoist me up into it.  Not bad when we go to bed.  But, when I have to go to the restroom at 1am and then wake him up to get back into bed?  That’s an inconvenience.  Mind you, he doesn’t complain.  He helps me with everything very willingly.  But, I still feel bad.  (Last year’s cabin was the same, so I always ended up sleeping on the couch after my early morning bathroom break.  I suppose I could have done that this year too, but it was just easier to switch rooms.)

The other point is that just because someone says a place is wheelchair accessible doesn’t mean it is, because until you’re actually having to navigate in a chair, you really don’t know if things are all that accessible.  Until I was in the chair, I wouldn’t have thought of some of these problems.  Now they’re obstacles that I can’t avoid and am forced to tackle.  At least I try to do it with humor, because what other option do I have?

Starting JB’s trial

When I was in the hospital, working kept me going.  Most of my clients had no clue that I was in the hospital.  I didn’t want them to worry as I still had everything under control.  It kept me from losing focus on life.  It was like, be bummed about my situation or focus on the fact that I still have responsibilities and people who need me.

After 6 weeks in the hospital, I got back to court as soon as I could.  I think I was back in a courtroom 2 weeks after I got home.  I was right back at it, and it kept me alive.  (Not literally, just figuratively.)  There was only one client whose case I got off of because I didn’t think I could do enough for him.

JB was the one client I kept from my former employer.  My mentor.  The greatest defense attorney I have ever known.  He had passed away a year and 2 months prior to my becoming paralyzed.  And out of all the clients who asked to stay with me, I kept 1.  JB.  I had always felt a very maternal instinct to protect JB.  When I first met him, not many people were there for him.  He was practically estranged from any good influence in his life.  So I wanted to stay with him.  To protect him.  To save him.  It was a weird mix of wanting to help him and my one last remaining tie to my mentor.

After I ended up in the wheelchair, I suffered anxiety that I wouldn’t be able to do enough for him.  How could I be an effective voice in trial when I could barely even hold my body upright (I was pretty weak in the beginning).  I am not a confident person by nature.  If I seem it, then it’s a pretty good front.  I second guess everything, which is why I thrive on constant validation.  The difference between his case and my other cases is that I knew the other cases wouldn’t be going to trial right away.  And I was confident that I would get stronger and even start walking again soon.  But JB’s case was almost 2 years old and would be pushed to trial quickly.  I felt like I was abandoning him, but I had to hand him over to the public defender’s office.  I felt it was in his best interest.

Cut to almost a year ago when I get a call from a mom who wants a lawyer for her stepson who she loves as dearly as if he were her own.  “He’s not a bad kid.  He just needs help and I hear you can help him.”  I respond “Sure, what’s his name?  I’ll go see him in custody tomorrow.”  She tells me his first name, which is a very unique name.  “Don’t tell me it’s JB [insert last name here].”  She’s shocked that I know her son.  Apparently she had no idea that I had previously represented him.  They end up retaining me and I make them promise to not tell him so I can surprise him.  The look on his face when I rolled into jail was priceless.

In the 2 years since I had given his case over to the PD’s office, he had not only not gone to trial but picked up several new cases while he was out on bail.  Now I was back on his case and in his life.  I was stronger for what I had gone through and he was more willing to really open up to me because of his path.  We were a much stronger, better team now.  He actually told me recently that no matter what happens on his case, he has never felt more comfortable with anyone because he knows I truly care.  And I do.

So, tomorrow I start trial on the first of his many cases.  I am scared to lose his trial.  Not because I think he’s innocent like with some of my other cases with defendants that I’m close to.  But, I’m scared because it’s my one last tie to my mentor and if I lose, I feel like I’m letting him down.  And I feel like the universe brought me back to JB for a reason.  Maybe my mentor had something to do with that, I don’t know.  What I am confident about is that my wheelchair does not prohibit his defense.  It won’t stop me from being the best advocate for him that I can be.  It won’t stop me from arguing until I can’t argue any further.  I wasn’t confident 3 years ago.  And maybe I’m not the most confident now.  But I am dang sure that I am a fighter.  And that’s what he will get tomorrow.

But, winning would be nice validation.

Rolling around Catalina

I’m back on Catalina Island again.  This place is seriously my California happy spot.  (I qualify with California, because I also have a Wyoming happy spot.)  I love being here for a couple reasons: 1) Because I have the most amazing memories of coming here with my family as a kid.  We came out here all the time when my dad had a boat and would just hang out swimming in the bay and baking in the sun.  2) Because my mom used to come here all the time as a kid wither her family.  I never really knew my Grandpa Ducks (mom’s dad) because he passed away when I was 2 years old.  So, being here and knowing some stories from my mom’s youth makes me feel closer to the amazing man I never knew in life.  (I say “in life” because I’m convinced that ghost Grandpa Ducks likes to play practical jokes on me now.  But that is a story for a different day.)  3) Because everything is “walking distance” and I’m forced to be active while feeling safe in the enclosed little town.

catalina

My routine is pretty normal.  I get off the boat and wheel to my hotel room.  Today I am staying at a different hotel because my normal one was booked up.  I’m actually really loving this new hotel, and not just because it was closer to the pier where the ferry lets out.  It’s mostly because they have a wine and cheese hour with free stuff.  I only had 1 glass of wine.  No cheese.  Look at me- so healthy!  I get to my room and hang out for a few minutes.  Then I journey out to the little strip of stores and look around.  I sit by the water for a while and, if I remember, read my Kindle.  This time it was Lady Chatterley’s Lover, because it’s “banned book” month for the book club that I’m leading.  (Nerd alert!)  After that, I go to get dinner.  It’s usually either a sandwich from Vons or a slice of pizza.  Tonight’s dinner was a slice of pepperoni.  Hey, at least I didn’t have the cheese earlier, right?  Then, depending on the temperature, I either go back to my room and watch TV before turning early for bed, or I go back to sit by the water.  It’s pretty chilly and I didn’t bring a heavy sweatshirt, so I think I may forgo nighttime beach hangout.

But, my favorite routine of all: going to the candy/taffy store to get a caramel apple.  #DontTellMyTrainer  But, I figure it’s not so bad.  Ice cream would be worse.  I mean, the main ingredient of my dessert is apple.  It’s so healthy that you can disregard that it is slathered in caramel deliciousness.  Though, I suppose ice cream has milk which is calcium which is good for bones.  So ice cream is healthy too.  I’ll have both.  (I kid.  I kid.)

Today is the first time I’ve been away from the Little Mister for a significant amount of time.  I’m pretty sad.  He got up early this morning and then took a nap in my arms from 6:30-8:30am.  So, at least I have the sweet little memory to think back on.  And I know the Hubs is taking good care of him.  But it’s still weird: this used to be my favorite work place, but now I’m not nearly as exited to be here.  Man, kids ruin everything!  (Again, I kid.  I kid.)  I can’t wait to bring him to Catalina with me!  He’s going to be the third generation of amazing memories from this island!

I met a woman here today who owns a boat touring company.  She said she has a boat that she can easily get me on in my wheelchair.  I’m so stoked to check that out soon!  Being on the water is amazing!  And it’s one of the things that I love that I can still do.  I’m scared to try motortcycles, because I don’t know that I can transfer onto one.  And I hate falling.  But, riding quads was how I grew up and I miss it!  And I miss riding my bike (bicycle).  But, being on a boat is something I can still do and still love it.  So, I can’t wait to try her boat out!

Ok, so I know it seems like I talked a lot about the food I’m eating and it may sound bad. But, I did roll around town for about an hour and a half so I think I worked it out.  And I’m pretty sure that vacation work cancels out calories.  I’m pretty sure I read that somewhere.  #SeriouslyDontTellMyTrainer

First wheeled trial

Last week was big for me: I did my first jury trial in a wheelchair.  It’s crazy that I’ve been in a wheelchair for 2.5 years and it was my first one.  I say it’s because I am really good at pleading out cases (which is true).  But, I’ve also been hesitant.  The ones that I knew for sure were going to trial I was kind of pushing off.  And then the ones that I wanted to go to trial sooner ended up getting pushed for reasons beyond my control.  Such is the chaos that is the legal profession.

But last week, a case was ready, and away we went.  I was nervous.  Not for the case.  I felt as prepared as possible for that.  I had a whole other set of worries.  Would the jury be preoccupied with my wheelchair to listen to my arguments?  How was I going to take notes and address them at the same time?  I can’t use the podium because they’re wooden and set to a standing person’s height.  Not very wheelchair user friendly.  And things like standing as a way to show respect to the judge or jury.  Those were out the window.  Would they understand that I was still trying to be respectful?  Before my so called wheeled life, I would stand every time I addressed the judge.  And I would stand when asking questions.  It was professional.

But, I pushed all that aside so I wouldn’t be distracted from the main goal: winning.  The jury didn’t seem to react outwardly to my wheelchair.  They seemed to be focusing on the facts, which is exactly right.  Though, in my closing arguments, my investigator said a few of them were watching intrigued as I put my pointer and whatnot in my cup holder (I call it my “holster”).  Apparently they thought that was clever.  I hope they’re as amused by my arguments as they were by my cup holder.

Overall, it wasn’t that different from when I was walking.

Negatives:

-Couldn’t stand for the jury or judge

-Couldn’t use the podium

-Couldn’t bring in my normal wheelie bag to carry all my stuff, so I was limited on what I could bring in.  I have some big cases coming up with way more files.  I’m going to have to figure something else out.

Positives:

I love my job and I’m doing it.  Nothing can stop me.

Ladies and gentlemen, the positives win.  Now I go back to waiting for my jury to return a verdict.

P.S. Shout out to the hubs who taught me the difference between an ax and a hatchet.  There was one involved in this case and that was actually a pretty big difference.  I was able to educate the judge and DA.  So, thanks hubs!

Save the space

Handicapped parking spaces.  This seems to be a never-ending topic in the disabled world.  There seems to be four types of people who park in these spaces: 1) People who are not handicapped but are using someone else’s placard; 2) People who had an injury and had a temporary need for it, no longer need it, but still use it; 3) People with legitimate injuries or disabilities who technically are able to use it, but are able enough to park in a regular spot (read: don’t use wheelchairs, etc.); and 4) People who 100% need the space to get mobility devices in and out.

The first two categories are obvious violators.  You should know better than to use a disabled space.  They are not meant for convenience.  They are not just closer parking.  They serve real purposes, which you should know because a) you’re a rational human being; and b) you or someone close to you had the need for a space and know how hard they are to come by.

Number 3 is tricky.  I always hear people justify their use of disabled spaces because they have an inner disability you can’t necessarily see, so they are entitled to the space.  I get that.  I was like that before becoming paralyzed.  Toward the end (meaning, before my surgery) I could barely shuffle 3 steps without falling down.  It was bad.  So I would use handicapped spaces if there weren’t any close open regular spots.  But if there were non-handicapped spots close to the door, I would use that.  All too often I go places where there are plenty of open regular spaces, but people without mobility assisting devices jump out. If there are open spaces, please use them instead of the handicapped parking.

Number 4 is obvious.  Seriously.  If you need more clarification, then you probably should not be driving in general.

Let me explain something else: the sheer terror that I feel when all the handicapped spots are taken.  I need space to get my wheelchair out of my car.  If I’m with the hubs (or someone else), then a regular spot is fine, because they can pull the car out to give me room to get in and out and for them to take my chair apart.  The hubs has had to do this many, many times.  And that’s fine.  But if I am by myself, I can’t do that.  Even if I park in a regular space and give plenty of room, there’s no assurance that that car won’t leave and a new one will park in it’s place taking up my carefully planned room.  Then I’m stuck.  It’s not like I can ask a perfect stranger to move my car for me to get in and out.  I also can’t park on most streets, because there isn’t enough room to be able to open my door fully and assemble my wheelchair.  Call me crazy but I’d rather not end up roadkill.  The fear of not being able to park my car is overwhelming.

Just yesterday, I had to park 3 block away from the courthouse, because all of the spots were taken.  And oddly, I didn’t see one person in a wheelchair or walker.  I had to call the courtroom and explain to the clerk that I was probably going to be late because I had to park so far away and roll uphill to get to the courthouse.  Having to park 3 blocks away meant I had to cross two very busy streets several times.  That’s always a worry, because I am low to the ground.  And people are careless.  I’ve almost been hit several times.  Now a non-wheelchair person may say they had to park 3 blocks away and walk and that’s tough for them.  However, there were still plenty of regular spots available where they could have parked.  The spots at this particular place were way too narrow for me to park, and the court was busy enough that I couldn’t take up 2 spots.  Sometimes I end up doing that: parking far in the back of a given parking lot and taking up 2 spots.  I hang my disabled placard hoping that someone won’t think I just want to take up unnecessary room.  But that still makes me uneasy too.  I know people in wheelchairs who purposely park at the far end of parking lots in 2 spaces so they get the added exercise.  That is all fine and dandy, but again I worry that I will get hit and that’s not a chance I love to take, especially now that I’m rolling with a baby.

There’s all this talk about changing the signs to take off the wheelchair guy because you don’t have to be in a wheelchair to be handicapped.  So true.  However!  If you look at the spacing between the spots, it is designed for wheelchairs.  The van parking is designed for ramps and lifts.  Wheelchairs need clearance!  We need to be able to get our chairs in and out of our cars.  It’s not just about being close to the doors, even though I joke about that all the time.

I can’t emphasize enough how overwhelming it is to worry about something so trivial as a parking space.  But, when it comes to being a disabled person, it’s usually the trivial things that end up mattering the most.  Please, please, please don’t take parking for granted.  And please don’t park in a handicapped space unless you 100% with no other options need to.

Abilities Expo 2016 (Los Angeles)

This past weekend was the Abilities Expo at the Convention Center in downtown Los Angeles.  This was my first year going, though to be fair, I’m not really sure if there were any before.  I’m assuming there were by the way people were talking.  But either way, it was my first time going.  I’m glad I did.

The hubs, the little mister and I went.  This was the first time taking the baby on any sort of road trip and excursion.  He did well, which was a huge plus!  Parking at the convention center was a nightmare.  There was a designated lot for the Abilities Expo.  However, there weren’t any additional handicapped parking spaces.  Doesn’t it seem like common sense to increase the number of wheelchair spaces when there is a convention aimed at people in wheelchairs?  We were lucky enough to find a space on the opposite end of the elevator that was next to another empty space.  So, at least I was able to get out of the car OK.

The other downside was that the configuration needed a little work.  Checking in, there were long tables and two rows on the pre-registered side and three rows on the on-site registration side.  The tables were next to each other.  The entrances were on the opposite ends of the tables.  So, if you were on any of the inside rows, you had to backtrack and cut through the lines of people.  This was super hectic for us, with me being in a wheelchair and the hubs pushing the stroller.  And, given that a majority of the people were in wheelchairs or with wheelchairs, it was hectic.  The aisles inside the convention were fairly narrow too.  For a normal convention, I’m sure they were fine.  But, again, factor in the amount of wheelchairs, and it was jammed.  There were tons of traffic jams on the inside.

Ok, those were the negatives.  Now for the positives.  It was amazing to see so many people in wheelchairs in one place.  All ages and walks of life.  All different levels of functionality.  It was pretty cool.  I overheard people who were friends on Facebook meeting in real life.  That was pretty cool, and a testament to the benefit that the community groups on Facebook provides.

I had gone looking to talk to a representative of Tilite, the wheelchair company that I currently use, as I want to order a new wheelchair.  But, then I met a representative from Colours, another wheelchair maker.  I’d heard of them, but didn’t know much about their chairs.  Within seconds of my going up there, the man identified the 3 main things that I hate about my wheelchair and told me how they would fix it on a new wheelchair.  An added benefit is that they are manufactured about 45 minutes from my house, so I can go there to get measured and have it repaired if it gets fixed.  So, that was a huge benefit of going to the Abilities Expo!  Opened my horizons, for sure!

I picked up a FreeWheel, which I’d been thinking about for quite a while.  I’d already bought the Dragonfly wheelchair attachment, which turns my wheelchair into a handcycle.  That was a pretty great investment!  If a person is looking for a great way to exercise, I recommend this!  I’d been looking to add the FreeWheel to my collection which will be amazing for my trips to Wyoming.  It’s going to open up more outdoor areas: grass, dirt roads, etc.  And I’m looking to use it in my own backyard so I can finally start a garden!  I was stoked that they were selling these at the Abilities Expo and can’t wait to try it out!

The coolest part of the Abilities Expo may have been the bikes.  There was an exhibitor showcasing their bikes which had been specifically designed for people with disabilities.  The pedals were held up in the front, which is huge for a person with drop foot, like myself.  (In the video, you can see at the end how my feet are inclined to point down.)  The bikes had a handle on the back so an able bodied person can help give you a push if needed, or a stop, I suppose if you’re picking up too much speed.  The bikes are custom made in Canada, and built to the individual’s specifications.  They told me to jump on, but I was reluctant.  After the hubs gave me some encouragement, I decided to give it a try.  I am so glad that I did!  I actually pedaled two small laps!  Being an incomplete paraplegic, I do have some functionality in my legs.  My hips have managed to come back pretty strong, which allows for the pedaling.  My left quads are fairly strong (not like pre-paralysis strong, but compared to no movement, they’re strong) which allowed my left leg to pedal pretty well.  My right quads are kind of there but not as strong.  The problem was with bringing the leg back up and around.  So, I just use my hand to help my right leg along and was able to go!  It was exhilarating!!  I always say that not being able to ride my bike anymore is the biggest hardship from being paralyzed.  This gave me that joy back.  And sweat.  It gave me a lot of sweat.  I’m not sure that I will pick one up, as it was on the pricey side, and I live in a hilly area.  If I lived in the flat lands, I would pay for it without even second guessing!  But for now I have the video of my adventure.

 

I am so glad that I went to the Abilities Expo!  I didn’t attend any of the workshops or panels.  And I didn’t see the dancing girls or participate in the world’s largest wheelchair painting.  But I made the most of the exhibits that I did want to see.  I got better access to my backyard by purchasing my FreeWheel.  And I can’t wait to make use of it in Wyoming!  And I found my new wheelchair, which I hope to get in the works in the next few days.  And I got to experience the joy of riding a bike again.  I would consider all of that a win!

Get Over It!

I recently read this article “15 things wheelchair users hate hearing.”  I found the article to be so much more annoying, more than I found any of the 15 things to be.  People in wheelchairs this goes out to you: get over it.  We aren’t a common occurrence.  There are far too many of us, but we aren’t common.  Most people aren’t around paraplegics, quadriplegics or any other type of wheelchair user.  They are curious.  They are trying to be nice and relate.  Why can’t you just acknowledge that people who ask questions or start conversations are trying to be polite.  They’re trying to make you feel comfortable or trying to understand better. Start a dialogue.  Don’t shoot them down.  Kylie didn’t hurt you by posing in a wheelchair.  The nice woman at the grocery store didn’t try to piss on your parade by telling you she’d pray for you.  Get over yourselves and pass on knowledge instead of more judgement!

Here is my 15 responses to those 15 things the author claimed bug all wheelchair users:

 

1)      “I’ll pray for you”

 

Why would this bother someone?  I pray daily that I will walk someday.  I pray for a cure for paralysis.  I talk about cures for paralysis.  Why would it be offensive for someone else to pray too?

 

 

2)      “What happened to you?”

 

If someone is genuinely curious why would that be bad?  If it’s too personal, then say that.  I like sharing my story so I would never mind.  This especially cracks me up when reporters and bloggers complain about this because you’re publically putting yourself out there!  Get over it!

 

 

3)      “Congratulations”

 

Thank you!  Life in a wheelchair is hard.  And I’m out there conquering life.  A little acknowledgement and support is awesome!
 

4)      “How fast does that thing go?”

 

Whenever I can, I am racing around in my wheelchair.  If it’s level and there aren’t too many people, I’m flying.  I think it’s funny when people ask this or when they challenge me to a race.  Heck, I challenge other people to a race!
 

5)      “Stay positive”

 

Again, life in a wheelchair is hard.  And overwhelming at times.  It does take work to stay positive every now and then.  Why would I not want encouragement?  That’s not offensive!

 

6)      “I’m so glad I don’t have to be in a wheelchair.” I’ve never heard anyone over the age of 11 say this.  But, if they do, then yes, I’m glad you don’t have to be also!  It sucks.  I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else.
 

7)      “Is your significant other in a wheelchair too?”

People always ask me if my hubs is a lawyer too.  They ask him if his wife is a teacher.  It isn’t uncommon to be with someone who has something major in common with you.  That’s not a weird question.
 

8)      “You are too good looking for a wheelchair user”

Thank you, I think so too.  And I take enough selfies to show that I agree with you.  But I’m in this darn thing (for now) and I will rock it to the best of my abilities and make it look good. 
 

9)      “It’s good to see you are so productive”

 

SO many people in wheelchairs aren’t productive, so I get why this is a stereotype.  I’m out there killing life and it’s good for people to take notice of that to break stereotypes. 
 

10)  “Do you know Brian?”

 

No.  Is he cool?  No need to be annoyed by that question.  The way support groups and online forums work, maybe I do know him. 
 

11)  “Can you be cured?”

 

If it’s too personal, then tell them. But some people aren’t permanently in wheelchairs. And some people do have things that are fixable. Wanting to know if it’s a permanent thing shows concern and compassion, so why would you not like that question? 

 

 

12)  “I had to use a wheelchair once”

 

If a person is trying to find common ground, then who cares.  I’m sorry that they had to use a wheelchair at all.  And they’re better now, so tell me what you went through or what you did because maybe that will make me feel better.
 

13)  “You are inspirational”

 

Thank you.  I am inspirational.  I lost the ability to walk at 32 years old, 4 months after getting married.  And I didn’t fall into a pit of despair.  If I can help just one person get through the same thing, then I will be happy! 

 

 

14)  “I don’t know how you do it?”

 

People think they can’t get through something life shattering.  They are genuinely impressed.  A lot of people don’t make it through and give up.  I usually respond with “what other choice do I have?”
 

15)  “My grandma uses a wheelchair”

 

When I was 10 and used a walker, I used to think everyone would tease me because only grandmas use walkers.  Then I grew up.  If you have a family member in a wheelchair, even an elderly one, then you probably know some of the issues I face and we can chat about it.  They’re not calling me an old lady.  They’re relating.  Not offensive!

If anyone has questions about my wheelchair, why I’m in it, or wants to race, I welcome you!

Stop it!

Stop. Stop it.  Seriously.  Stop.  I’m talking to you.  And you.  You’re ok.  But you.  You stop!  Stop being offended by EVERYTHING!  I can’t handle the overly sensitive mentality of people these days.  It’s like people wake up in the morning wondering what they can be offended by today.  Then they spew their hatred all over social media and if you don’t agree with them, you’re the moron.  Why don’t we put on our big gender-neutral pants and agree that you can’t please everyone, so just worry about yourself.  And don’t be a sensitive ninny.  (Oh great, I just made enemies of the sensitive ninny population.)

My rant is directed at the new “ableism” campaign.  Apparently if you can walk then you’re a big jerk for pointing out that all of us cripples can’t.  I think that’s the basic gist.  People are all up in arms over Kylie Jenner and her Interview magazine photo shoot in which she posed with a gold wheelchair.  I saw the pictures and my first thought was “solid gold or gold-plated and either way I wonder if my insurance will cover one of those bad boys for me?”  It didn’t even cross my mind to be offended because she’s in a wheelchair.  But she can walk.  Wait a minute!  If she can walk, then she doesn’t need a wheelchair.  But she’s in a wheelchair.  Please excuse me while my head explodes over this.

Ok, I’m back, head in tact.  I seriously don’t see the issue.  I tried to see it from the point of view of the people who were all butt-hurt over it.  (Oh great, now I’ve gone and offended those people without butts.)  But (pun intended) as I looked at them, I still don’t see it.  She’s a model.  She’s in a wheelchair.  It’s a picture.  Her job is taking pictures.  She looks amazing.  The photographer didn’t make it blurry.  The clothes fit.  Good job by all people whose jobs were involved in the shoot.  Where’s the issue?

In reading stories on the matter as further research (oh man, now I’ve gone and pissed off the anti-researchers and the illiterate) it seems to me that the issue is that the photographer could have used a wheelchair-user in the photos.  There’s like a million (uh oh, there goes my readers who can’t count) handicapped people who are all saying they could have been in the picture instead.  So, it stems from selfish motivations.  (I’m not worried about losing the selfish crowd cause they’re too self-absorbed to realize I’m talking about them.  They’re perfect- not overly compensating in awarding themselves self-worth.)  They wish they were in the photo.  But, unless you actually are Kylie Jenner, YOU AREN’T KYLIE JENNER!  If you want to be in that photo, go buy some latex and take a picture yourself.  The world, and Interview magazine, doesn’t owe you anything.  If you want to do something, go do it.  If you want to be a model in a wheelchair, then go pitch yourself to an agency and show them why they need you.  How do you think Kylie Jenner, or any of the Jenners/Kardashians made it?  They made the world think that we couldn’t survive if their names and images weren’t plastered on everything everywhere.  SO go do that!  Don’t sit back and whine that you aren’t in that photo.  Go make your own.

I read some tweet from some wheelchair user saying that people can’t even look her in the eye but Kylie Jenner gets to model in a wheelchair.  And something about her not being able to wheel around her town or take pictures in her wheelchair.  That sounds like a her problem.  Not a world problem.  Gangs, prison overcrowding, ISIS, too many animals in shelters and kids in foster care…those are world problems.  Those are things we should be discussing en masse.  Not some person who doesn’t use a wheelchair posing for a picture in a wheelchair.  Does that mean that blondes everywhere should be offended because Khloe Kardashian has blonde hair now and if she’s in a picture, that means they should have been in the picture instead?  (I know that was a major rambling sentence, which probably made me lose my grammar police crowd.  And if the sentence didn’t, the grammar police comment probably did.  But, you get my point.)  One person doing something benign like posing for a picture in a wheelchair does not negate all the people who are in wheelchairs for real.

How does Kylie Jenner’s photo affect me?  It doesn’t!  (Other than the fact that I think it’s a pretty picture.)  At the end of the day, I am a badass chick.  I am an attorney who holds her own in the courtroom.  I uphold the constitution and helps people on a daily basis.  I am a wife who does really amazing things for her husband like make a special trip to the grocery store to make sure he has the type of egg nog which our normal store doesn’t have.  But it’s his favorite, so I do that for him.  I am a fur baby mom (and soon to be human baby mom) who would do anything for her little ones.  I am a person who can talk herself out of doing terrible things like dieting or working out.  So I ask again: how does Kylie Jenner taking a picture in a wheelchair affect me and my life?  It doesn’t.  And I implore the rest of you to realize that it doesn’t have an impact on your life either.  GET OVER IT!!

Paraple-pancake

Today I almost became a paraple-pancake in the Target shopping center near my house.  (I hope that you’re picturing Wile E. Coyote after the large boulder meant for the road runner lands on him and he walks away like a smooshed pancake on legs. Cause that’s what could have happened!!)  Let me set the scene.  I had gone into Target to get some things, like a toy to donate to a 6 year old boy through my church.  (And some ugly Christmas sweaters and nail polish, but the toy makes me sound way more angelic which makes almost getting run over even sadder!  People would probably care more about the Pope being hit by a car than Kim K.)  The way the Target parking lot is set up there is a row closest to the entrance that has about 10 disabled spaces.  And there’s a slight decline away from the store.

So there I was, rolling toward my car with one hand on my wheel and one hand holding the basket with all my newly purchased wares.  I passed a couple parked cars.  Then all of a sudden, this dbag in an SUV throws his car into reverse and hits the gas without even looking.  I was seriously INCHES from his bumper.  I always watch for reverse lights because I never trust that people will see me.  There was seriously no pause between light coming in and car backing out at a very fast speed!  I immediately yank on the wheel, but since I only had 1 hand on my wheel, it throws my chair into a gnarly 360 spin.  My other hand is clutching the basket which is about to go spilling.  The spin I do in my chair causes me to go out of control and nearly hit the car next to the dbag in the SUV.  He looks at me like “Whoops, sorry” and points to the car I almost splattered against to see if that’s where I am going.  He’s lucky that my hands were on my wheels and basket or else I would have been pointing with a very specific finger!  So he stops and I keep going behind him to my car, which was parked on the other side of him.  His girlfriend is staring at me with this look of complete amusement on her face.  I nearly LOST IT!  I’m hoping they were lip readers, because while my hands were occupied, my mouth was spewing some very colorful and choice words which I will not repeat, lest I lose my “PG” rating on this blog.  I called the hubs, but he was working and couldn’t answer.  So then I called my mom, because after you’re nearly smooshed into the pavement, you have to call someone!  And, do you know how hard it is to edit the colorful language out of a story when half of it involves directing said language toward a person?  Just like on this blog, I try to not cuss around my parents.  But, I think I used the word dbag like 50 times in the retelling of the story to her.  I said I tried to clean up the language, not that I was able.

The burn of it is that this JERK was parked in a disabled space too.  So either he’s the most selfish dbag on the planet who can’t watch out for anyone else.  Or, he’s not really supposed to be parking there.  I find that most handicapped people tend to be a little more cautious because we know how scary it can be to not be seen as easily by people.  At least, I know that’s how I drive.  When I back out of a space, I turn my head in true Exorcist fashion 25 times to make sure no one is behind me.  And I watch my mirrors and back up camera.  It might seem extreme, but I never want to be like the dbag in the SUV today.

The moral of the story ladies and gents: please, please, please be cautious in parking lots.  Not just in the handicapped area, but everywhere.  There’s always a chance that you may miss seeing a kid or a wheelchair.  And if it weren’t for my cat like reflexes and the a couple guardian angels, I could be all kinds of hurt right now! (But, my wheelchair would be OK, cause it’s titanium and that beyotch is indestructible!)

Wounded Vets Parking Spaces

Every now and then you read something that makes you feel happy and also makes you think “WHY WAS THIS NOT A THING ALREADY?!”  I just came across a story while perusing very serious news sources (read: from my Facebook newsfeed) about groups of people who are painting parking spaces purple.  These new purple spaces will be respectfully designated for wounded vets.  I think that it absolutely amazing!  And again, why is this not already a thing?!  Veterans in general deserve so much respect!  And those who have become disabled as a result of their service definitely deserve all of the help they can get!  A purple parking space may seem trivial, but it’s a sign of respect.  I commend the businesses who are adding these spaces and hope that more follow suit.  Though, I do hope that they convert regular spaces and don’t take away from already blue spaces.  They should convert the closest blue spaces to purple and then add a couple more blue in the regular spaces.  That would be my own suggestion.

You can read the article here.