Stairs mean I’m not welcome – even if you disagree

March 28, 2017

Last night I went to an event and I arrived to find that the only parking was down the street, and the entrance had 3 stairs. Are you kidding me!?!

This is far from the first time, but I admit it was more surprising than usual. After all, this event was big on promoting inclusivity. Apparently that covers a lot of minority groups, but not those who are disabled. I was lucky I was able to do those stairs last night. Some days I can’t. And what about everyone else who can’t? They would have shown up, only to have to turn around and go home.

I remember going to my 10 year high school reunion and arriving to find a flight of stairs. I was pissed. I almost turned around and went home. I was in so much pain that I had almost stayed home in the first place, and now stairs! They were basically saying that no one who had developed health issues that limited their use of stairs was welcome, not to mention our classmate with cerebal palsy who was in a wheelchair all through our school years together. WTF, organizers?! I know she wasn’t in your “cool” circle but that doesn’t make her any less a part of our class!

I said something to the reunion organizers at the time. Now our 20 year reunion is coming up. I should probably say something again, just to be sure. Is this really so hard?

Last night I said something, too. The organizer immediately tried to point out a tiny back door that of course I hadn’t known existed. I told him, “If there’s no sign, it’s not accessible! If there’s no parking, it’s not accessible!” Because if someone can’t walk far, they can’t get from that parking lot to the building. And how is someone supposed to know to come around to the back door? Never mind not everyone can walk that far. And I’m not sure the path is wide enough and even enough for a wheelchair. And it’s not lit. So yeah, really not accessible.

And the truth is, there was a sign. There was a big, huge, blatant sign: “Disabled People Not Welcome!” That’s the sign I saw when I looked at those stairs.

Would you go to an event that had a sign saying “No Jews” like the signs my grandparents literally saw years ago? How about a sign saying “Whites Only” with a door for racial minorities around back? No? If those aren’t ok, then why does our society feel it’s ok to have figurative “Able-bodied Only” signs? They’re everywhere, and I’m completely fed up. THIS IS NOT OK!!!

The one bright spot was that at the end of the event, I mentioned something to the other participants. It was disheartening that they hadn’t noticed something, but at least their response was better than the organizer’s. They didn’t try to justify anything. Instead, they immediately started brainstorming where next month’s event could be held that would be accessible.

That made me happy. Then again, the bar has been set super low. We need to raise it, because no one should be able to get away with that attitude unchallenged.

How do you handle these kinds of situations? Please comment!

Pups, trees, and better health

December 27, 2016

img_20161223_091955I grew up in a suburb, then went to college in a quiet rural area. But my university had around 17,000 undergraduate students, plus graduate students, faculty, and staff. It was a city unto itself. After college I moved to a city, then a different city for graduate school, then several more moves within cities. Which is why it feels so odd to be living in the suburbs again.

Five short days ago I moved to a suburb that’s a lot quieter and smaller than the one I grew up in. This will be a huge adjustment, but overall I think it will be good. Since this blog is about living with a chronic illness, here are a few ways I think it will be good for my health:

  • This complex allows dogs and there are dogs everywhere. I’ve pet many in just these few short days, including my neighbor’s new puppy! Petting dogs always makes me feel better, no matter what. And soon I’ll have one of my own!
  • Check out the view from my desk at the top of this post. It’s not as great as my old view, but from my window I can see so many trees! From my apartment I can take a walk along a path through woods, something I used to have to drive to do. This will do wonders for my emotional health.
  • It’s so quiet here. I’ve been sleeping better than I thought was possible. When I’m awake, it’s peaceful and relaxing. It’s strange, and a huge adjustment, but I find it calming and lovely.
  • No. More. Stairs. I’m on the first floor and there are no stairs to get into the building. This is amazing!
  • Easy parking. I used to feel stressed out about finding a parking space. Then I would have to carry things from my car, sometimes several blocks, just to get to my building (before dealing with the stairs.) Now the tiny parking lot is by my front door, and I never have to park very far. Bringing in groceries today was so easy.
  • Laundry is now in my unit. The last time I had that was when I lived with my parents. My guess is that laundry won’t be fatiguing anymore.
  • No traffic. I have to do a lot more driving (I can no longer walk to things or take public transportation,) but it’s much less stressful.
  • Less pollution. ‘nuf said.
  • It’s a smaller apartment. There are downsides to that, and I’m not thrilled, but I also know that on the days I’m in too much pain to walk, having a smaller apartment will be super helpful.

In time, I’m sure I will find more ways this move will be beneficial to my health. In the meantime, I’m excited to enjoy these new benefits. Now excuse me while I go unpack some more boxes….

What a difference a parking spot can make

February 6, 2015

I should be out doing things today. I should at least be doing things around my apartment. Instead, it’s noon, I’m in my pajamas, and I’m having trouble finding the energy to do anything remotely useful. Why? Because of parking problems.2015-01-28 08.31.11

Parking is a problem in a lot of cities. It’s so inconvenient that I briefly considered going car-less a few years ago, but the reality is that there were just too many days, even when I was healthier, that I could walk to public transportation. So I kept my car. Which means I always need a place to put my car.

Boston has gotten a lot of snow recently – about 40″ in the last two weeks. And we’re do for another foot or two in the next few days. In a city of narrow roads, this greatly restricts parking. My neighborhood has parking on both sides of the street normally, but right now there’s only enough room to park on one side. That means that every time I drive, I worry about giving up my parking space.

Two days ago, I came home tired, then spent 1/2 hour looking for a parking space. By the time I got to my apartment I was too tired to cook dinner.

Yesterday I decided to take the bus instead of giving up my parking space. I took the bus, walked, walked more, took the bus, and took another bus. I was exhausted. I did everything I needed to while I was out, but it was tiring. Then I waited for the last bus for 30 minutes in wind chill temperatures around 10F. That didn’t help. Again, by the time I got home I was too tired to cook dinner.

Today I’m resting. If I had driven yesterday, I’d probably have the energy to do the few things I’d like to do today. I could go to the post office, cook, and generally feel decent. Instead, I feel lousy. And why? Because I didn’t want to give up my parking space.

I’ve thought about moving several times over the years, but this may be the last straw. It may be time to move now. I’ve tried to put up with the parking stresses, but last week I didn’t go out because of it, and that wasn’t good for my emotion health. This week I did go out and it wasn’t good for my physical health. Shouldn’t I live someplace where I can go out when I need to and come home when I need to? (By the way, parking can be tough even when there’s no snow on the ground. The snow just makes it that much harder.)

So I’m looking for a new apartment. In fact, that’s what I was doing when I took the bus yesterday. I’ve seen a couple places that are close to what I want, but not quite. I’m still looking. It’s a tough market, so please wish me luck!

And hopefully, by next winter, I will have an apartment with my very own, off street parking space. Oh, what a luxury that would be!

How does blocking a handicapped parking space help those selfish people?

December 22, 2014

I’ve written several times about how annoyed I get when someone illegally parks in a handicapped parking space. It’s rude, inconsiderate, selfish, and inexcusable.

So you can imagine how I feel when I try to park in a handicapped space, only to be blocked not by a car, but by a Handicapped Parkingshopping cart. Yeah, I get pretty pissed.

Yesterday I went to a new grocery store. There were two carts in the handicapped space! Luckily they were to the side and I drive a small car, so I was able to fit into the extra-wide space. Still, it was so wrong! And yes, there have been times when I have had to drive past the space, because I don’t have the energy or I am in too much pain to get out of my car, walk over, move the cart, get back in my car, park, then continue with my errands. This time, I was with someone, and we each took one cart on our way into the store.

Then I came back to my car, only to find a new cart that someone had left between my car and the small island of dirt and grass! What the fuck?!?

There is absolutely no excuse for this! If you are able to walk as far as that space and put the cart between my car and the grass, then you could walk a few more feet to the cart return. Yes, there was a cart return, and it was just across from my car. And if there was no return, there would still be no excuse for leaving a shopping cart there. Leave it in a non-handicapped space. Or, you know, do the decent thing and bring it back to the store!

I try to the assume the best in people. I really do. But these are the things that make me cynical. These are the things that make me wonder how someone can be so unbelievably self-centered that they either don’t realize or don’t care that they are making things so much harder for someone who probably already has to exert a whole lot more effort to go to the grocery store.

I complained to a worker and asked him to tell the store manager. He said they were aware of the problem. Obviously, there’s nothing they can do. So I say we do something! When you see someone doing this, let them know how despicable they are being. Let’s shame them mercilessly. And maybe, if they are embarrassed enough, it might occur to them that the best way to avoid being shamed and embarrassed is to, you know, be a decent human being.

More things your doctor doesn’t tell you: temporary handicapped parking permits

October 31, 2014

I can’t believe how many times I’ve had different versions of the same conversation. First there was this one:Handicapped Parking

Me: There is absolutely no excuse for parking in a handicapped parking space without a permit.

Him: Well, maybe there are some.

Me: No. None. There’s just no excuse at all. If you need the space, get a permit.

Him: What do you think about pregnant women using those spaces?

Me: I have had plenty of pregnant friends who could walk around just fine up to the time they delivered. They sure did better than me!

Him: Well, my sister had some complications.

Me: Then she should have gotten a temporary permit from her doctor.

Him: Oh, I didn’t know those existed!

Then came this one:

Me: There is absolutely no excuse for parking in a handicapped parking space without a permit.

Her: I totally agree. Usually. I mean, I did park in them last month when my foot was healing. But that was different. I needed it.

Me: If you really needed it then you should have gotten a temporary permit from your doctor.

Her: Oh, I didn’t know those existed!

And there have been others. Why is it so hard to understand that there is no excuse whatsoever for parking in a handicapped parking space without a permit? Why don’t people realize that if they have a legitimate need then they should get a temporary permit? Oh, that’s right, because doctors never offer them! Shouldn’t a doctor suggest to a patient with a broken foot or some other temporary condition that they get a temporary permit? I don’t know if temporary permits are available in every state, but they definitely are in Massachusetts. (If you want proof, check out #6 on this site.) But the average ambulatory person does not know this. Why would they?

Doctors should know it, though. They should know it, and they should tell their patients. I am not suggesting that these temporary permits be handed out like candy on Halloween. However, like so many other issues in the world of illness, education will help everyone. People who need temporary permits would be helped so much if they could actually get them. And people with a legitimate need to park in those spaces would be helped by people not assuming it’s ok to park there if they themselves judge their own need to be worthy.

So I will continue to say this to people, and I hope you do, too:

It’s not up to you to decide if you “need” or “deserve” to park in those spaces. If you have a legitimate need, get a permit. Otherwise, leave those spaces for people who really do need them!

Have you had similar conversations? Please share some in the comments below!

Why do we let our illness props embarrass us?

November 10, 2013

The other day I was talking to someone who often carries a pillow with her. Due to a back problem, she needs the pillow for sitting in certain kinds of chairs. She said she’s embarrassed to be seen carrying it around. I was surprised. Another day I Handicapped Parkingwas talking with a friend who’s embarrassed to park in handicapped spaces. She knows she needs them, but she looks healthy, so she worries about what other people will think. I tried to encourage her to get the pass, but she refused. These are two stories, but there are so many others. I hear these kinds of things all the time.


I’d like to say that I never let those things embarrass me, but it wouldn’t be true. I’ve come a long way, though! Occasionally I worry about what other people think, but then I remember that my health is more important that what strangers think of me. And besides, who are they to judge?

It helps to remember, I’m not the one who should be embarrassed! And neither are you!

If I need to ask for a seat on the train, why I should I be embarrassed? The people who should be embarrassed are the ones who don’t immediately offer up their seats. The people who should be embarrassed are the ones who don’t get up for the pregnant lady with 2 kids and groceries who steps on the train. The people who should be embarrassed are the ones who listen to music so loudly that it bothers other passengers.

When I park in a handicapped space I am very aware that I do not look like I have any disability. But why should I be embarrassed? The people who should be embarrassed are the ones who judge me without knowing me. The people who should be embarrassed are the ones who “borrow” a relative’s pass even though they themselves don’t need it. The people who should be embarrassed are the ones who park horizontally, taking up 3 spaces in the lot just so their car won’t get dinged by someone else’s door.

Sometimes I need a wheelchair when I’m in a place that involves a lot of walking. Sometimes it gets in other people’s way. But why should I be embarrassed? The people who should be embarrassed are the ones who get annoyed at me and say rude things. The people who should be embarrassed are the ones who don’t take 2 seconds from their day to open a door for me. The people who should be embarrassed are the ones who are so preoccupied with whatever they’re reading on their smartphones that they bump into other people.

Needing some sort of help for the sake of our own health and well-being is absolutely, positively, without doubt, in no way any reason at all for embarrassment. Rude, inconsiderate behavior is. So be a good, nice, helpful person for others and you’ll have no reason to be embarrassed. And if someone says something anyway? Do what I do: simply, calmly, and matter-of-factly tell them why they’re wrong. Then walk (literally or figuratively) away with your head held high.

Forget the cloak: become invisible in a handicapped parking space

April 27, 2013

I’ve found there are two reactions from strangers when I park in a handicapped parking spot. It’s either condemnation or obliviousness.

I covered condemnation in yesterday’s post. I experienced obliviousness today.

Do you ever watch how people search for parking spaces? It doesn’t matter if someone plans to walk a mile around and around Handicapped Parkingthe inside of a mall; it’s so very important to them that they don’t walk an extra 50 feet to a farther parking spot. It’s a priority to park as close to the building’s door as possible. It doesn’t matter to them how much time, effort, and gas they waste. They need the “best” possible parking spot. They see it as an accomplishment.

Now, if you happen to be in one of those close-to-the-building parking spaces, drivers will be very happy to wait while you load your packages into the trunk, buckle your kids into their car seats, check your email on the phone, and generally take several extra minutes to pull out of that spot. Because it means they get the spot when you leave. So they wait while traffic backs up behind them.

All of that is different if you park in a handicapped parking space. They can’t park in your spot, so they don’t bother looking in your direction. They just drive right past. I’ve found that waiting patiently doesn’t help with this situation. I’ve tried to back out slowly, but that’s tough too, because the determined drivers will just swing around my car and continue down the aisle. They can’t use my parking space so they have no incentive to let me out. I’ve found that it takes much longer to get out of a handicapped parking space than a non-handicapped one that’s just as close or even one that’s farther away. And it’s infuriating.

I know this problem isn’t about their view of me needing the parking space. It’s about people being selfish, impatient, and rude. Still, it’s just one more added difficulty in an already difficult situation. And I’m fed up with it.

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