Monday, May 21, 2012

The Danger of Parenting With A Disability

'Fireworks' photo (c) 2008, bayasaa - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

It's Victoria Day Weekend here in the great white north.  For most of us this means, bbqs and beer.  No one is honestly thinking about the queen.  On holidays the Niagara Falls Park commission holds a great fireworks show over the falls.  When I was able bodied, I used to take my kids down regularly to see the fireworks.  It's been some time since I have done this, and so I decided to revive the tradition and take them last night.

If I had remembered the fact that these fireworks show draw thousands of people, I might not have done it.  I knew that it would be crowded, but I was immediately overwhelmed by the number.  Being in a scooter, I was unable to hold their hands.  I instructed Destruction who is 11, to hold onto Mayhem who is 6 and not to let go no matter what.  Being in a scooter, immediately put me at a disadvantage.  People cut in front of me without looking, causing me to stop suddenly, or they simply refused to let me move forward no matter how patiently I waited.  The first time I lost my children we were simply trying to cross the street.  My children were pushed along with  the crowd and I was so surrounded that I could not immediately follow.  It took me five minutes of searching through the crowd, unable to move before I spotted them across the street.

I crossed the street to join them and tried to get us closer to the falls so that they could see the fireworks show.  Once again, people cut in front me and in frustration I ended up yelling at a woman.  Due to stairs, I was unable to actually look over the falls with the kids, so I stayed on the lower level and kept one eye on them and the other eye on the fireworks.  As soon as it was over, there was a massive push to leave the area.  I knew that this was going to be trouble.  I yelled at my children to hold onto each other no matter what and if we got separated, I instructed them to go to their fathers place of employment.


Though we tried desperately to stay in contact with each, it wasn't long before people cut in front me again or stood in groups denying me the ability to cross.  Unlike the able bodied, I cannot step over a curb and must cross at a curb cut.  It took less than three minutes for me to once again loose sight of my children.  The fear struck me immediately, because though Destruction is a responsible child, he was lost with his younger brother in a crowd of well over a thousand people at 11pm at night.  Anything could have happened to them.  I yelled their names repeatedly, but I simply could not move forward to search, because people kept cutting in front me.  After about 15 minutes, I was finally able to move but at that point, I had no idea where my children were.  The fear struck me in a way I cannot describe.

When I arrived at the unhusbands job, the kids were not there and I broke down and cried.  I felt as though this was all my fault. I should have known better than to attempt to do this on my own with my boys.  I took it for granted that things would be the same as when I was able bodied.  My mind immediately played out the worse case scenarios because that's what happens when you have lost your kids.  Fortunately for me, five minutes after my arrival at the unhusbands job, my boys showed up.  Destruction told me that he was scared but remained calm so that his little brother would not be scared.  For his part, Mayhem said he was just fine because he had his big brother with them.

As we congregated outside of my unhusbands job waiting for him to finish, people kept stopping and asking if I needed them to hold the door open for me to enter.  Each well meaning inquiry pissed me the fuck off.  I have said many times that the able bodied are more than willing to open a door when I don't need it, but allowing me to take up space is something that I am continually denied.  All of a sudden, it was pity the cripple but when I really needed help, no one gave a damn.  I was an inconvenience that was stopping people from moving, when in actuality, even at medium speed, I am capable of moving faster than someone on foot, if they would simply give me leeway to move.  Of course had I barreled my way through the crowd, someone could have been hurt and so I tried to be patient.  It was a case of the able bodied having the right to move at will regardless of what this did to me.

Destruction told me that he only saw one person in a manual wheel chair last night and said "I guess this isn't a good place for disabled people to go and that is why they all stayed home."  I won't be taking the kids back to see any fireworks displays for the rest of the season.  Though it worked out just fine this time, I am all to aware that things could have been very different.  This has turned into yet another family tradition that I have had to give up due to my disability.  What pisses me off the most is that this is something I should be capable of doing.  The barrier in this case is the ableism.  There is no way that people didn't see an electric blue scooter with the headlight on; they simply didn't care that I was present.