Friday, July 10, 2009

Tank Chair

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Okay can I just say how much I want this mighty machine.  Even though I now have my scooter, there are still plenty of places that access is denied to  me.  When I came across this muscle bound baby, yeah I had total wheel envy. 

Until I came down with three chronic illnesses, mobility was something I very much took for granted.  It was an easy thing to do because the world was built to accommodate me.  Today as I struggle to get through narrow doorways and negotiate sidewalk curbs that are not smoothed down, the world that once made way before me is now filled with obstacles.

Some may look at the tank chair and see a monstrosity but I see it as yet another tool to help those of us who have disabilities experience full and active lives.  The sheer size of the wheels impress me.  I have become used to having my right to take up space continually challenged.  As I struggled this week to get into the DOJO were Destruction takes karate, I was told by a fellow parent that I should just leave my scooter outside at the parking meter.  Without that scooter I would not be able to watch my son participate in an activity that I paid for and that he loves and yet it was so easily suggested that I should give it up because my method of transportation took up too much space.

Scooters, wheel chairs, canes, walkers etc., all mean freedom. Each activity that is opened up for me improves my emotional health because it allows me to participate in the wonders of this world.   Small things like taking a walk with my family, or watching my sons at the playground, give me a sense of peace and well being that I can find nowhere else.  When those that are able bodied infringe upon that experience in an effort to express their privilege, it shatters the delicate balance that we have so carefully crafted.

Part of what we fight is this idea that there is a normal way of functioning and or relating to the world.   There have always been those whose bodies don’t fit what the medical establishment has normalized as functioning, even though the persistence of our presence proves we are a natural part of creation.  It is not difference that is the issue; it is the way that we have come to understand this supposed difference.  In an environment that is designed to ensure that a differently abled individual is able to function at their highest level, the disability becomes irrelevant.  We enforce a medical model of disability each time we fail to accommodate or demand that a differently abled person complete a task that is beyond their capabilities.  It forces the individual to become their illness and or disability. 

I see the way that people tend to regard physical aids with pity as though those of us that are dependent upon them for mobility should be ashamed.   I am constantly reminded by others of what I cannot do because of my scooter as though the fault lies with my body and not an ableist world that has decided that PWD don’t deserve accommodations.  It is not my body that limits me but the construction of the world.  Even as the dependency of PWD is decried and stigmatized with the “super crip” mythology, the powerless state is created.  If the bar of accomplishment keeps moving and barriers are purposefully put in our path, how are we to lead successful lives?

Please take the time to share some of your experiences with reactions to your wheelchair, walker, cane etc…how do you deal with any ableism that you encounter?