Monday, June 29, 2009

Scooters and Road Rage

I am a differently abled woman due to three chronic illnesses.  Walking a few blocks is enough to tire me out and require hours of rest to recuperate.  I am dependent on a scooter to get around town to do various activities.  For short distances I rely on a cane. 

image My scooter and my cane are absolutely necessary to my existence, and mental well being because they facilitate activity.  Rather than attempting to minimize their function, I have chosen to accentuate them by choosing a very brightly coloured butterfly cane and a bright red scooter.  When I am using them they are not simply accessories, they are extensions of my being and therefore deserve as much respect as any other part of my body.

I have noticed since the cane and the scooter have become permanent fixtures in my life, how differently people treat me in public.  My disabled status often overrides my gender and even racial status as people expect me to disappear from public view as though my very existence is disturbing.  My right to take up space is regularly disregarded, as I am admonished to either speed up or slow down depending on the needs of the able bodied person near me. 

Recently, I struggled to get my scooter into a pharmacy because the doorway was not very wide.  Instead of displaying patience, I was promptly ordered to hurry it up by the able bodied woman standing behind me.  I honestly thought about running over the womans foot because that is precisely what would have happened had I not taken the precautions to manoeuvre slowly.

As I toot around the city, I have increasingly become aware of just how blind the able bodied are to scooters.  We are called a menace when we are on the road and are continually blocked from passing on the sidewalk.  I find that I need to hyper aware, because people don’t really watch where they are walking and it is always me that is expected to yield. 

I even had my first case of legitimate scooter rage when I was almost run over by a car.  The driver could not be bothered to wait to turn into a parking lot as I was tooting along the sidewalk.  After just a few weeks of gaining my mobility with my scooter, what I have come to learn as that despite the size and color of the vehicle in question, it is  “invisible”.  I believe this to be true because we have denied that those that are differently abled have a right to take up space.

Somehow we are always inconveniencing the able bodied and no thought is ever given to the risks that we must deal with.  As I toot around I have noticed the image terrible state of the sidewalks and parking lots.  If you are walking or in a car these imperfections are not a risk, however if  you are in a scooter or a wheelchair, you risk toppling over which can lead to a serious head injury.  Just three weeks ago a man on a scooter tipped over because of a curb that was not smoothed down enough. 

So many stores do not have automatic doors or have a raised step which means that we cannot enter them at all.  When I arrive at places like this and I stand to either obtain entry or leave my scooter outside to finish my shopping, the look of shock and dismay from some able bodied people is enough for me to want to create a new bunch of expletives.  I am forced to move because a facility is not differently abled friendly and they have the nerve to be shocked because I need entrance so badly that I am willing to suffer pain to complete my mission. Sometimes there is even shock because I am able to walk at all suggesting that I don’t really need the scooter to begin with. How about displaying a little shock at the business for being so discriminatory as to not be accessible to all people? 

image I have a lot of learning to do regarding disability scholarship, however in just the few short years since I have become disabled, I have learned that the expectations placed upon my body exist to make life easier for others.  I have learned to see the news stories of those who “rise above” as a sort of “super crip mythology,” meant to force those of us that are differently abled to simply try harder, rather than demanding the accommodations we need and deserve.  I have learned that my scooter makes me a menace no matter how alert I am of others.  You see the exsistence that is always challenged is that of the differently abled person after all life is for “normal” people isn’t it?