Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Ask a Woman in a Wheelchair

Are the bathroom stalls ever big enough? They rarely seem big enough, especially at airports. How much does it enrage you at this point?

Tiny bathroom stalls are definitely a drag, especially when you have a bladder the size of a grandma like me and gotta gooooo. Plus I like to stay 'drated (that's rap slang I invented for 'hydrated,' let's make this a thing, ladies!) so I pee 30 times a day. Airports are usually okay (unless it's JFK), but there are NO ACCESSIBLE BATHROOMS on airplanes! That enrages me. A lot.

What are the most obvious ways in which people can not make your life more difficult on a daily basis? Do people steal your parking spaces and then make apologetic shrugging gestures with any regularity?

I think the most annoying/difficult thing nondisabled people do on the daily is make assumptions about what my life is like or what I must be like, i.e., I get a lot of overenthusiastic, condescending smiles/words of unnecessary encouragement ("you're so inspirational!") when I'm trying to do basic things like buy tampons. You can tell people are thinking 'I'm gonna go out of my way and brighten that sad crippled girl's day!' when the reality is I'm just trying not to murder them. Many nondisabled people seem to think that because I can't walk, I can't do anything (which is way weird and very insulting), therefore my completion of extremely mundane tasks blows. their. minds. For instance, I put my glasses back on at the dentist after taking them off for a root canal (I just threw that last part in to elicit reader sympathy) and the mid-twenties hygienist looked into my eyes, sighed, and said 'you're AMAZING.' Umm really? That's 'amazing?' If I'd been capable of thinking clearly through my paroxysm of indignation I would've responded with an ornery retort, something along the lines of 'if you like that, you should watch me wipe after using the bathroom — it's INCREDIBLE!' Instead I did what I often do in these situations, which is: perform a Liz Lemon 'over the top eye-roll,' bury my exasperation deep down in my solar plexus, and wait for it to erupt later under more awkward and embarrassing conditions.

That particular 'amazing' comment was not an isolated event, and happens fairly regularly. Recently, I pushed the button in an elevator, which was also deemed 'amazing.' What's so upsetting about these seemingly glib remarks is that they reveal the insidious consequences of pervasive cultural stereotypes about disability (namely: to be disabled means you must be incompetent); more personally, it exposes society's lowered expectations of me as a disabled woman. Because if putting on a pair of glasses or pushing a button is an achievement deserving of a verbal pat on the back (it's not), what sort of legitimateaccomplishments do people believe I'm capable of? Evidently my options are limited. For the record I don't think the people making these ridiculous comments are bad people. In fact I think they're 'trying to be nice,' but severely misguided, with no awareness that what they consider to be complimentary is actually denigrating and otherizing. An apt comparison would be a white person telling a black person they're articulate or well-spoken. What one person considers praise, another labels as 'worthy of a melodramatic, audible groan.' Also, strangers in general just feel comfortable asking me really personal questions ("What happened to you?!" "Were you in an accident?" "Can you have sex?" which even at 30 years old I'm still shocked by. (Answers: Does it matter?, No, and YES — ALL THE TIME. I'm actually having sex as I'm typing now — it's amazing.) I don't have to deal with parking space-stealers as I rely on Portland's ever-entertaining public transport. Did you know wheelchair vans are like $50K? Like most non-Huxtables I can't afford that. I just keep it real on the bus.

Are your arms RIPPED?

I can assure you that nothing about my body is ripped. I use a powerchair (electric) not a pushchair, so my arms get most of their daily exercise from lifting glasses of vodka sodas to my mouth — the official drink of choice for disabled women everywhere. I move my chair via a joystick, which kinda resembles a nipple on a breastfeeding woman (jealous?). The joystick is loose, though, and keeps falling on the ground so I've been fortunate to have an excuse to yell 'my nipple fell off!' repeatedly. This has been a fun thing to cry out loudly in public.

Pet peeves? Thoughts on the burgeoning activism community and the Internet?

People asking me intrusive questions ("what's wrong with you?") and not minding their own beeswax is probably my biggest pet peeve. At least in terms of disability stuff. I'm, shall we say, moody, so my list of grievances runs the gamut. I don't discriminate, y'all. Another is being subjected to the same tired, inane "jokes" over and over against my will. If I had a nickel for every time I heard 'ya gotta license to drive that thing?' 'what's your speed limit?' I'd have a shitload of nickels. Those jokes aren't offensive to me as a disabled person, but rather as someone who understands that jokes should actually be funny. It seems strangely similar to what TV stars who get famous for a catchphrase must endure when they go out in public. Strangers yell out the catchphrase to the celebrity ("I'm Rick James, bitch!") ad nauseam believing not only are they saying something hilarious, but they're the first ones to think of it. So, I guess what I'm saying is I'm the disabled Dave Chappelle.

Lack of accessible housing, lack of jobs, and peoples' weird ableist attitudes are of course gigantic issues that bum me out. It can feel pretty isolating. There's a pointed emphasis on green, eco-friendly living here in Portland, yet it's incredibly challenging to find accessible housing. I've witnessed a huge influx in property development here over the past decade, yet it took me literally years to locate the apartment I live in now because they aren't building accessible, affordable units. They may be eco-friendly and hip, but they're likely not accessible. This makes zero sense. Considering the vast number of aging baby boomers who'll need accessible housing in the very near future, this problem is going to become glaringly evident.

In terms of lack of jobs, people with disabilities face significant discrimination when looking for employment, and this often comes down to attitudinal barriers against hiring disabled employees. While the recession has been cruel to the general workforce, it has been even worse for the disabled community. In June, only 32% of people with disabilities were employed (contrasted with 77% of nondisabled people), while 80% of disabled people said they wanted to work. And if you're lucky enough to have a job, you often have to deal with ableism on the job. So, what exactly is ableism?

Ableism is prejudice against people with disabilities, and like every other -ism, can take on many gnarly forms. This ranges from negative attitudes to the dearth of accessible housing, denying someone a job due to an impairment, and targeting someone for a crime because they have a disability. At my previous job (which was ironically a disability organization), I endured a healthy heaping of ableism, to the point where I would relay work stories to my ablebodied friends and they straight up didn't believe me! This included (among many examples): being singled out and humiliated by my boss in front of all my co-workers when he serenaded me with 'no one wants to be a crip,' (this was done to the tune of Michael Jackson's 'Beat It' — I shit you not), our office moving into an inaccessible building where disabled people (like the ones we were ostensibly supposed to serve plus several employees) couldn't get through the tiny front doors, or reach the elevator buttons if you were in a wheelchair because they were really high, or use the inaccessible bathrooms for over three months. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. I can't even get into all of it, but I like to believe that the queen bee Lil Kim was correct in opining 'karma's a motherfucker.' I can only expend so much energy distressed by ableism. And ableism is distressing, and wears down your psyche. Since I can't hulk out in every situation where I'm being discriminated against, I can only hope that the universe will take care of some of the haters for me. But believe me when I tell you, it's hard out there for a gimp.

Luckily not everyone's a bonehead, though! Online activism has definitely made a positive impact on my life in allowing me to connect with other people from all over the world interested in disability rights and disability arts and culture. Blending art and activism can definitely achieve powerful results. There's a lot of interesting and creative endeavors springing up. My favorite groups are ADAPT, Bay area disability art collective Sins Invalid, and a new Facebook photo campaign called 'This is what disability looks like' that's rad.

Is dating other people in wheelchairs more common than dating people without wheelchairs?

No — I've never actually dated another wheelchair user, though I have dated dudes with impairments. That didn't help us get along, though. Maybe I have an unexamined ablebody fetish? I certainly see a huge appeal in dating someone like you who shares in your experiences and 'gets it,' especially if they're supercute like those Murderball guys. Instead I always seem to date men who've had zero previous exposure to disability, which results in lots of awkward, silly situations. Where's MY romantic comedy, Hollywood?

Randomly: are wheelchairs getting better? It seems like there's a huge opportunity for improvement, like the wheelchair equivalent of Pistorius's legs?

Oh my god I think about this ALL THE TIME! There is a gigantic opportunity to make wheelchairs not only function better but also to LOOK COOL but nobody's doing it. At least not that I'm aware of. Why can't my wheelchair be a working piece of badass art? And maybe waterproof for Christ's sake? I actually gave my old broke-down chair to a guy in town who's an engineer and builds bikes. He was going to tinker with it and create some crazy indoor/outdoor hybrid wheelchair vehicle using ummm ... science. So other than that one guy, nobody else I know is taking advantage of the market. Somebody needs to get on that, stat.

I imagine there's a pretty tight network of Ladies with Wheelchairs that exists online or something? Tell me if that's correct and then tell me if you talk about how some cities are better for you to live in than others? Like, is it just generally accepted that parts of NYC, for example, are inaccessible? Or are there some wheelchair users who like to show off by  proving there's nowhere they can't live comfortably? You know, they're also the ones who never take vacation days.

There's definitely a growing number of disability networks online, some which are geared toward women specifically. Most of them are cross-disability, though, and not strictly just for wheelies. Shoutout to the Gimpgirl Community, the now defunct (which kills me) but archived Feminists with Disabilities, and the BBC's Ouch! podcast with the hysterical Liz Carr. In terms of cities, yes, some are definitely better to navigate than others. The rule of thumb seems to be the older the city (meaning East Coast), the harder it is to get around. I visited NYC earlier this year (where I accidentally almost got Tocarra from America's Next Top Model hit by a taxi, but that's another story) and saw exactly two wheelchair users in the entire city. I was pretty blown away but can't say I was totally surprised given the fact that 1) most of the subways are inaccessible and 2) there's like 50 wheelchair-accessible cabs. I don't know how disabled people live there. Juxtapose that with the UK, where supposedly all taxis are legally required to be wheelchair accessible. What it's like once you exit the taxi, however, I don't know. I've only been to Canada. Sadface. I'm in Portland, which does pretty well minus the lack of accessible housing and jobs. And yes, there are always martyrs who have something to prove and/or need to show off! I'm most definitely not one of them. I'd much rather be sipping a cocktail, comfortable in the knowledge that I have an accessible place to pee.

Caitlin Wood is a dirty south transplant currently living in Portland, Oregon. She is a writer and co-founder of the disability and pop culture website WheresLulu.com. When not watching terrible TV shows, she enjoys happy hour, incorrectly filling out crossword puzzles, occasionally making music and living vicariously through hardcore rap lyrics.

154 Comments / Post A Comment

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

"I get a lot of overenthusiastic, condescending smiles/words of unnecessary encouragement ("you're so inspirational!") when I'm trying to do basic things like buy tampons."

This made me love you.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

Also, it made me want to drink vodka tonics with you.


@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose I'm finding it way more amusing to picture that these people aren't ableist idiots and actually tell every single person they see buying tampons that they're "so inspirational!"

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Beaker The whole scenario made me laugh, mostly because I can't even imagine speaking to another human while I'm in the tampon aisle.


@Beaker I totally want to start walking up to random strangers in the feminine hygiene aisle and say, "You're so inspirational!" for no reason, then walk away.

Miss Maszkerádi

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose In my local drugstore the "embarrassing personal products" aisle is 1/3 tampons, 1/3 condoms, and 1/3 Depends. On any given day there's some crotchety old grouch, a dudebro who thinks he's going to get way more action than he probably will, and a mortified teenage girl all in there at once studiously avoiding eye contact.


@Bebe BRB, gotta run to Walgreens. :D

fondue with cheddar

@CountessMaritza You forgot lube and douches! Isn't it hilarious how they always put all the embarrassing things together? Enemas are usually in a different section, though.


This is fantastic, and really informative. I can't believe planes don't have accessible bathrooms! How is that okay?!


@SarahP Also I will singlehandedly help you make 'drated happen.

Well, actually, I'm not cool enough for anyone to follow my lead ever, so I mean I'll say it all the time, and that's enough, right?


@SarahP And does that mean you can only go on really short plane rides? Because that kind of blows!


@SarahP I had an occupational therapist friend who looked into this question awhile back. The answer seems to be who the fuck knows! It's just somehow allowed! It makes me crazy too. (Ok, I think the answer is that it's not a 'reasonable accommodation' because seat space and airline profitability and blah blah blah but REALLY.)


@SarahP In my experience, on the long hauls I've been on, there is one bathroom in business/first that is accessible. It's usually on the right side, opposite from the emergency exit. But I don't imagine they advertise that very loudly.

Reginal T. Squirge

Haters stay hatin'/ Players stay 'drated


This was so interesting to read! Thanks so much for writing the article. I have often wondered about certain of these things. Especially since I heard a story on This American Life about people who make projects of suing non-compliant businesses - I have often wondered since then if areas marked "accessible" really are. I go to the bathroom a million times a day too and I can certainly imagine how much more irritating this would be if I had to make complex strategic plans first, every time. (Do you just never fly?)


"Instead I always seem to date men who've had zero previous exposure to disability, which results in lots of awkward, silly situations. Where's MY romantic comedy, Hollywood?"

I would watch the SHIT out of that movie.


@owlegg I was just about to leave that same comment, verbatim. There's this one coming out with John Hawkes (The Sessions) but he is in an iron lung, which I have to imagine is QUITE different from being in a wheelchair.


@owlegg CONCURRING SO HARD. Kickstarterrrrrrrrrrrrrrr


@owlegg I would watch that movie like nine times.



I kid! But the Huxtables line just made my life, and seriously, this is such an important read and one of the many reasons The Pin is awesome.....symptoms of cataracts

Meredith Whitfield@facebook

You and my main girl Lindsey need to be friends.



@Meredith Whitfield@facebook I concur.

Anne Helen Petersen


Anne Helen Petersen

@Anne Helen Petersen I kid! But the Huxtables line just made my life, and seriously, this is such an important read and one of the many reasons The Pin is awesome.


@Anne Helen Petersen --Yes! "non-Huxtables" is the reason I logged in to voice my appreciation. The rest of the article is wonderful and I am so glad to read your (this is to the author) voice and, like, things that you have to say. Thanks!


This was one of the funniest articles I've read on here in ages, and really made me want to hang out with you.

hot mess

I used to work at a very prominent rehab hospital and coordinated the float staff. My favorite social worker was in a scooter. She worked full time hours - never was offered a full time job. My favorite - having to tell the director of allied health that when they renovated the 9th floor bathroom they put the paper towels so high that people in chairs couldn't reach 'em. The contractor called me and wanted me to explain to him what the problem was. Quick question - If you did work at 'the best' rehab hospital in the US, would you think to make the bathroom accessible? The fact that the girl the lowest on the totem pole had to bring this up was my personal favorite.
I was also called into the office a lot for being insubordinate.


Taxis in the UK (at least in Scotland) are much more wheelchair accessible than taxis in the UK (generally) but OH MAN THE BUILDINGS. So many old buildings here have been 'listed' which means they can't have any major renovations done to them, which means no ramps, no lifts, no wider doorways, etc. It drives me NUTS and I still can't get over it as an able-bodied person; I can't even imagine how frustrating it must be for someone in a wheelchair to negotiate.


@erindubitably ugh I know. I work in a shop with loads of stairs in an old building that's apparently 'listed' (only grade 2 - if that) and ridiculously inaccessible. I don't think the shop can afford to install a lift, as they don't actually own the building and it's only a small company, but the owners of the building are doing work on the upper floors at the moment and I bet they could.

Cat named Virtute

@erindubitably Montreal (and lots of other places in Quebec) is like this too. I used to regularly shit my brain trying to figure out how anyone with mobility impairment went ANYWHERE there (my hunch is "with great difficulty and profanity or not at all.")


@erindubitably Seriously about the buildings! And the Tube stations in central London, oh my god. There were quite a few really on-point and pointed editorials about how inaccessible the rest of London was despite the Stratford area being pretty great for the Paralympics (which were amazzzzzzzing)


@Fissionchips I volunteer in an Oxfam shop (in the UK) and we don't have a ramp so wheelchair users can enter the shop. (A friend of my mum's used to volunteer there, and she says they used to have a removable one, but it seems to have vanished. Also, she agrees with me that the shop manager is the LAZIEST PERSON EVER.) According to our manager we can't have one because "it would block the pavement". Well, yes (which is why a removable one rather than a built-in one makes sense), but also people do need to get into the shop. Oh, and during my induction I was told that one particular local wheelchair user got arsey about not being able to get in - but I should just point out that we don't have a ramp and be contented that he couldn't get into the shop to cause further trouble. What.


@Cat named Virtute sorry, I have nothing constructive to add to this conversation, but oh my god "shit my brain" is a great, great phrase.


What really gets me is that accessibility ramps/wider doorways are great for able-bodied society, too! Mothers with prams/strollers would use the shit out of all those ramps! This would also benefit all those elderly on mobility scooters.
Seriously, when will society learn?

tea tray in the sky.

At the University of Ottawa, the Visual Arts building is completely inaccessible. All the studios are on the top for of a four-story walk-up! Which is crazy, because obvious reasons, and also because it's the only university in Ottawa to even offer a Visual Arts program. What do disabled Ottawan art students do?!


@erindubitably YES. And I am actually ablebodied BUT I have always been baffled by the UK. I moved here from the States (specific references - Bay Area, Denver and Washington, DC) and have been astounded that for all that Brits seem to TALK about access more than Americans they don't actually, you know, do much. Like in DC if a station's elevator is out there are all sorts of announcements and explanations of the shuttles you can get from other stations. In London, it feels like maybe four stations ARE accessible (okay, exaggeration, but you know what I mean.)

Also, in a funny side story, my college at university took literally 18 months with three dudes working on this one part of college. It's a 15th century building, so, sure it was going to take ages, but we all assumed they were doing something magic. There was a lot of speculation - some new electrical wiring that was taking forever, reworking the entire plumbing system, putting in an underground tunnel? 18 months later, they pull away the barriers for the big reveal and it is [drumroll] about a three foot ramp. Really? 18 months? No wonder so many listed buildings aren't up to code yet.


@martinipie I went to the Paralympics! Best day ever, seriously. Why isn't wheelchair racing in the actual Olympics?! It is such an awesome sport to watch.


@Hammitt Yeah, I moved here from the States as well and I just can't believe what goes on in the name of 'preserving historic buildings'. Especially since some of the stuff that gets listed is ugly '70s concrete block that really could do with being knocked down and replaced with something that's less of an eyesore... ahem, anyway. I'm all for preserving gorgeous old buildings but why can't *everybody* get to enjoy them, not just people willing to climb up a million stairs every day?


@erindubitably My bestie's daughter is on her high school track team, and their school has a number of wheelchair events. Turns out that the state championships also have wheelchair track & field events - TOTALLY amazing to watch. (Especially wheelchair hammer throw.)

Lauren Oh

More on Tocarra, please. PLEASE.


@Lauren Oh I can't believe I remember who she is! Thanks for holding on to that, brain.


This was an AMAZING article!

My sister uses a cane, and being a relatively young woman who otherwise "looks healthy," people are naturally kind of perplexed when they see her. The staring is rude and annoying, sure, but fairly forgivable. But the gall of strangers who walk up to her and without even saying hello, will just blurt out, "So, what's wrong with you?" is appalling. It probably pisses me off more than her, but dude - where do these people get off? I always, always want her to give them the old up-and-down look (she's really good at that - it is withering) and say, "Nothing. What's wrong with YOU?" But she's a better person than I am.

dj pomegranate

@Bebe Yeah I am always shocked at what people think is ok to say/do to strangers, from touching of hair and pregnant bellies to outright rudeness. It makes me want to ask them if they were raised by wolves, but I suspect wolves are more polite and don't go butting into people's private business!


@dj pomegranate Wolves > People sometimes, for sure.


@dj pomegranate Agreed.


I had a friend who was in a wheelchair when I studied and it took me months of friendship before I felt I could ask what made her a paraplegic without offending.
She answered me frankly and wasn't offended and I felt glad that I waited til we were friends before asking.
I would never presume to ask someone who was disabled how they came to be that way on first meeting - it could have been a traumatising event that should not be triggered (much like making a flippant remark about rape - you just don't know who around you is going to be triggered).

fondue with cheddar

@TARDIStime It's true! I've known people who had permanent reminders of traumatic events on their body (though not disabilities), and you could see the pain in their faces when someone asked them how they lost their front teeth (a car accident where he killed someone in the other car) or got their scar (a car accident in which his mom died). It's basically not your business unless you're good friends.


"Those jokes aren't offensive to me as a disabled person, but rather as someone who understands that jokes should actually be funny."

This article on the other hand? Really, really funny. and just generally excellent.

Anna Jayne@twitter

"Those jokes aren't offensive to me as a disabled person, but rather as someone who understands that jokes should actually be funny."



"Where's MY romantic comedy, Hollywood?" Oh, dear; knowing how Hollywood handles subjects requiring any kind of thought or calibration, my immediate reaction is, "be careful what you wish for." But actually, YEAH! Where is your romantic comedy, for Pete's sake?


...My head is still stuck on no accessible bathrooms on airplanes.

How...? What...? Seriously, FOR REAL? That is so unbelievably stupid.




Me too!
This piece is hilarious, and I appreciate the reminder that we who are not (yet) disabled ought to take note of the ways in which transportation could be more wheelchair-accessible.
I never considered the bathrooms on airplanes! It's absurd, since losing a row of seats' worth of space in order to gain lots of passengers who now avoid long-distance flying seems pretty logical.


@City_Dater Cruise ships, too! My family was on a cruise this summer, and the facilities were pretty terrible for somebody in a wheelchair.


@OxfordComma I suspect if you asked about it, they'd give you some BS excuse about how people would fuck more in airplane bathrooms if they were more commodious. Like how some airlines experimented with flip-down baby-changing decks in plane potties, but people kept fucking on them and breaking them, so they took 'em out and 86ed the whole notion. :-/

fondue with cheddar

@OxfordComma I don't even understand how that's LEGAL. What the hell is the ADA for, anyway?


@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) The ADA doesn't apply to airplanes. The Air Carrier Access Act does. I don't know what it says about bathrooms, but I do know that the ACAA complaint process is entirely administrative and there's no guarantee that a given complaint will even be investigated.

Plus, the ACAA provides no attorney's fees. So private disability rights attorneys basically can't take those cases on, because they straight-up won't get paid.

fondue with cheddar

@stonefruit That's terrible on so many levels. :(


@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) it gets worse: the ACAA is routinely found to preempt state disability rights laws. so not only are there no fees (and the ADA doesn't apply), but disability rights lawyers can't rely on state laws that guarantee better access because courts have to defer to the federal ACAA and reject the state laws.

(I may or may not be totally scarred from a case I worked on where we failed to defeat the preemption argument. It was a huge, huge bummer.)


(Also? Is it okay to politely ask if a person in a wheelchair needs help? Obviously, if they're struggling to, say, reach something, not just if they're hanging out and drinking vodka.)


@OxfordComma I'm just generally sort of a helpful person but I also don't want to seem condescending, so I get an above-average amount of anxiety about this.


@OxfordComma I also want to know the answer to this question! I've had a few students with disabilities take my class over the last few years (and my campus is actually REALLY great in terms of both access and services for students with disabilities of all kinds, which is awesome and helpful), and have struggled with this a bit. For example, I have a student this semester who has almost no use of one arm and very limited use of his other arm (ultimately he types with one finger on one arm), and spent like three weeks grappling with whether or not I should mention that he's welcome to come see me if I'm ever going too fast for him to get all the information all because I didn't want to sound totally condescending or like I thought he would need the help or special treatment or what have you. I did finally say something to him after class when his classmate that usually emails him his notes (so that he can supplement his own) was out one day and he looked totally panicked, but I still don't know whether or not it was helpful, neutral, or just me being an ableist asshole!

ETA - I should note that he has had me work with our disability services group on campus for his exams and such, so it wasn't like I was just like "Hey! You! I noticed you type differently."


@HeyThatsMyBike I don't know how it goes for everybody, but my aunt has MS and uses a helper dog/scooter/wheelchair at various times, and she doesn't (usually) mind, but she gets really mad when she says, "No, I've got it, thanks," and they insist on trying to do something which just complicates the whole situation because then she ends up being forced to defend the fact that she really can buy a box of tampons (or whatever - that is totally going to be my new filler phrase). I figure if somebody (abled or disabled) looks like they're having trouble with something, the polite thing to do is offer help. But if it's turned down, accept it and move on.

This is obviously not firsthand experience, so she could be the exception and not the rule, but that's the way I approach situations having had several talks with my aunt about it.


@OxfordComma Well, if you saw an abled person who happened to be shorter than you struggling to reach something, you'd offer to help, so I imagine it would be fine to do so for someone in a wheelchair - just like you'd hold a door open for anyone coming in behind you, or any number of small courtesies we extend to people in general I think would be fine. But maybe someone with direct experience can answer this better?

@HeyThatsMyBike I have a friend who works with disability services at my school, and they LOVE getting calls from teachers who ask how they can better serve their disabled students. It means you care! If you're ever uncertain how to help your student again, you can always call them and ask for advice.

Editing to agree with @packedsuitcase - YES. Offer, and if they say no, just say, "Ok, have a good day!" and move on. It starts to get awkward really fast if you insist after they say no the first time.

Caitlin Wood@facebook

@OxfordComma That's a really great question. My opinion is if you see someone who obviously looks like they're struggling with something (whether disabled or not), asking 'do you want a hand?' is no biggie. I think the problem arises when people just barge in making assumptions thinking they're 'saving the day.'


@Bebe @Caitlin Wood: See, that's what I've been acting on--it makes sense to offer help and/or to move on if told that help isn't necessary. ...I don't have anyone close to me who is disabled, so it's good to know that this is cool. Merci!


@packedsuitcase : But...but...your aunt is just SO AMAZING.

baked bean

Ahhh this is so appropriate for today! I was getting coffee and was putting milk in it and a lady in a wheelchair was cleaning up some tea she spilled on the counter. I said, "Do you need help?" and then immediately said "DOH!" in my head afterward because she didn't, and I felt bad for being stupid.


@OxfordComma: Thank you for asking this. We've got a few wheelchair-bound people in our area and some hills/ramps (a particularly large one is the only way to our train station's platforms). I offer to help but I'm always really conscious of how I say it because on one hand: patronising, but on the other hand: it's a big honking ramp, you know? Then I feel like I'm being ableist for even thinking about it (I don't think twice about helping someone get a pram onboard) and now everyone can see I'm a neurotic weirdo, can't they?

I never push the matter if they refuse, so at least I'd be okay with your aunt, @packedsuitcase!


@Caitlin Wood@facebook I agree 100%. I'd offer help to anyone if it appeared they needed it, but I wouldn't assume just because of a visible disability that they couldn't manage (insert X situation) without help.

I am legally blind, and though I usually get around just fine without my cane in my regular life, when I travel, I use it in airports and stuff. Helps curb the anxiety. Occasionally people ask if they can help me with anything, which is lovely, and I appreciate it, although quite honestly, the vast majority of those offers have come when I was merrily going about my business with no other indication that I was less-than-whole other than the cane itself. *sigh*

Once I was waiting in an airport for a tram to go to another concourse, and when it came, the 60ish woman standing next to me just GRABBED MY ARM and tried to haul me into the tram with her. She hadn't spoken to me AT ALL before this, so it was really jarring and a little alarming.

I realized quickly that she was trying to be helpful, but she was VERY lucky both of my hands were occupied. Lack of a free hand was the only reason I didn't immediately haul off and deck her with a swift right hook.

I took one deep breath, and said in a deadpan tone, "Thanks. I'm fine. My handlers wouldn't have let me out alone if I couldn't handle it. In future, ASK if someone needs help. I almost hit you." She was very embarrassed, and apologized. I like to think she and all the other people around us learned a little something that day. Oy.

fondue with cheddar

@OxfordComma This is only tangentially related, but one time when I was in the supermarket a little person asked me to reach something on a shelf that was too high for them, and apparently I reacted a little too enthusiastically because my boyfriend at the time was mortified. I'm five feet tall, and nobody ever asks me to reach things for them. I'm always the one doing the asking. I said something to the lady to that effect, with a huge smile on my face. I'm SO sorry if I offended you, lady! It just caught me completely by surprise.


@MsChilePepper Too many people have seen people do that in movies and think it's okay. Have you seen Amelie? There is a part where she grabs a blind man's arm and walks him down the street describing everything and the scene ends with him being so happy. It's really nice, FOR A MOVIE. But I think people want to be like Amelie in real life. And that's just dumb.

fondue with cheddar

@josefinastrummer Yeah...I love that movie, but that scene made me uncomfortable.

@josefinastrummer "But I think people want to be like Amelie in real life. And that's just dumb."

Seriously, in any way that it may apply, it is dumb. Get rid of your willingness to impose upon the general public any Amelie fetishes, seriously, they are revolting.

fondue with cheddar

@S. Elizabeth Just like all other manic pixie dream girls, they're much better in movies than in real life.


@ScienceGeek so - just as a point of information - most of the chair-users that I know are very very unfond of the phrase "wheelchair-bound." They're not bound to their wheelchairs; they use their wheelchairs for mobility.

Sara Cantor@facebook

@Caitlin Wood@facebook

For me, the key here is the "someone who obviously looks like they're struggling with something" - I often get asked if I need help while doing something like getting out of my car or walking down the street (both real situations), and it can really easily ruin my day! I try to give off an air of confidence and cool-lady-on-her-own-ness, and being reminded that the visibility of my disability can trump all that is a huge bummer.

Also, being asked literally every ten feet if I need help with my rolling bag in the airport is SO tiring, because each time I respond with "no, thanks" and a smile, and then my jaw hurrrrts and my politeness reserves are tapped and every interaction becomes forced. Ugh, airports.

But if I look like I'm doing something out of the ordinary? Yes, please, ask!


@Ames "Instead I always seem to date men who've had zero previous exposure to disability, which results in lots of awkward, silly situations. Where's MY romantic comedy, Hollywood?" rotrans marfa

I would watch the SHIT out of that movie.

dj pomegranate

I loved this article and will henceforth be sharing it with all my friends. Thank you Caitlin and thank you Hairpin!

Cat named Virtute

Caitlin, this was great! As a (non-wheelchair using) lady with a disability, I super appreciate seeing someone smartly discussing ableism and accessibility barriers on the 'Pin!

fondue with cheddar

@Cat named Virtute I'm not a lady with a disability, but I really appreciate this, too! I try to be aware of such things, but there are a multitude of accessibility barriers out there that a person without disabilities wouldn't recognize without someone pointing them out. This is a wonderful piece.

Briony Fields

I live in (European Capital City) and it's depressingly inaccessible. Attitudes towards disability in some places in Europe are decades behind North America. I have never lived in a building that had even an elevator, much less a ramp. Ramps are nonexistent. Elevators are rare. Also, only the main train stations have elevators, so if you're one of the suckers who lives on one of the oh, 90 other stops, you're SOL. Unsurprisingly, I see very few people in wheelchairs on the trains. There's always an army of women with prams though, waiting at the bottom of the stairs for someone to offer a hand carrying the pram up.

dj pomegranate

@Briony Fields When I studied abroad in [major European city], I had a discussion with one of my friends's host families one night at dinner--like 3 American students and this (quite generous and lovely!) host family. Somehow we started talking about disabilities/access and one of us jaunty American students asked something along the lines of, "Have there been recent efforts to make this beautiful city more accessible to people in wheelchairs or with crutches? I don't see a lot of handicapped people out and about!" And the host parent laughed and said (I am not making this up) "Oh haha! We just don't have that many disabled people! Everyone here walks all the time and is healthy so we don't need wheelchairs! Haha. More bread?" And all of us students thought but did not say, "No, actually, you don't see them because THEYRE ALL STUCK IN THEIR FLATS."


Those job numbers are staggering.
Great piece. Funny lady.


@City_Dater Cruise ships, too! My family was on a cruise this summer, and the facilities were pretty terrible for somebody in a wheelchair.


I love Liz Carr and the Ouch! blog! I also love this article. More posts from Caitlin, please.

The lack of accessible toilets on planes is ridiculous, as is NYC only having about 50 accessible taxis (seriously? That is shocking).

I learnt this fact recently:

"In case of fire or evacuation, several UK airports that don’t have stair wheelchairs operate a ‘savehaven’ scheme, in which disabled people who cannot manage stairs are placed in fire-protected stairwells with a chair and a phone." http://under100ml.tumblr.com/post/31192989259/disabled-pregnant-trans-heres-a-guide-to-airport
Okay, better than being abandoned to the flames, and maybe better than having an untrained staff member attempt to carry you down stairs, but still, this is a bit terrifying. Can we really not come up with a better solution?


@Verity My university had a few of these in corners away from the elevator. There wasn't a chair or a phone, though, so I don't know what people are supposed to do once they get into the little lock-box. Just sit there and hope the firefighters remember to check them all? That sounds terrifying.


@Verity When I was at Art school in 2008 we had a fire drill and the fireman running it told us to "leave the disabled people behind as they can clog the stairwell".
I still cannot believe this actually happened.

Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that)

@playingpossum Um, can we talk about that? Because that's some pretty offensive bullshit right there.


@Rookie Yes I was pretty offended. I called him on it and he said "in an emergency we have to live in the real world".
As the mother of a person with a disability (and now a person with limited mobility myself) I can only hope that if there is a fire that the people around me (and my son) don't feel like he did or listen to his advice. Its truly astonishing what people feel they can justify in "the real world". Discrimination is alive and well in all its forms.

fondue with cheddar

@playingpossum That just might be the most offensive thing I've ever heard. I am LIVID. Why don't we just leave the children behind as well, because they will only slow us down? ARRRRGH


@playingpossum The only appropriate response there is to break his kneecaps, set him on fire, then hurdle him as you flee the room.

Caitlin Wood@facebook

Wow, thanks for the positive feedback guys! Really want to make out with each and every one of you right now... My place in an hour?


@Caitlin Wood@facebook You can make out? You're so inspirational!

(Sorry. Couldn't resist. But seriously loved this!)


@Caitlin Wood@facebook
I'll bring the tampons, cause, y'know...


@Caitlin Wood@facebook Is there enough vodka for all of us?


This was a terrific read. And hilarious. Thanks!

Lola P.

@Caitlin Wood@facebook i'm here. did you move? or are you just not answering the doorbell? don't worry. i'll wait.

(this was fucking fantastic and i laughed a lot and learned a lot and yelled out "daaaaamn. school is in SESSION!" because it was in the very best way. great now i've loved something so much i sound boring)

Nora Miller@facebook

Caitlin, I loved this article. You are so definitely a writer. I'd say you were an amazing writer, but I don't want to make you do a spit take on your vodka soda.

When I was in France some years back, I came across a sign on a handicapped parking space that read "If you want to take my parking space, please take my disability too." Is that funny? I couldn't decide.

By the way, I have been reading a LOT of political blogs lately, and I must say it was a total and unexpected delight to read both your article and all the pleasant and positive comments without a single troll to ruin the camaraderie. Thanks for the happy break, guys.


This is a really great article! I loved it.

Margot Harrington@twitter

So, while we're on the subject can we get a new word for "disabled"? Synonyms for disabled are seriously negative: crippled, helpless, broken, impaired, mutilated, dis-functional, etc. Any proud disabled person will tell you they are NONE of those things and it really grates my cheese that there isn't a more constructive way to refer to people who have a different set of physical abilities. Aimee Mullins talks about this and her prosthetics in this fantastic TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/aimee_mullins_prosthetic_aesthetics.html. Among her many excellent points is this gem, "From an identity standpoint, what does it mean to have a disability? Pamela Anderson has more prosthetic in her body than I do. Nobody calls her disabled.”


@Margot Harrington@twitter one of my TAs is an officer in the campus Association For The (Something Positive Of/For) People With Differabilities. I liked that a lot.


@Margot Harrington@twitter My son was born with a serious congenital disability. His mobility is quite limited and he can easily be written off as "other". We have always said he was a child (now a man) with a disability rather than a disabled child - not much difference really but it means something very different, especially in an educational setting.
My other son has smashed himself to bits on a motorcycle - 5 months later he is just about walking without sticks. He has now seen the limitations of the world his brother lives in - and words are definitely part of it. Someone (a stranger) asked him what had happened- he said it was a failed anal probe by aliens.I was so proud!

fondue with cheddar

@Margot Harrington@twitter I've heard people say "differently-abled", and I like that because it's neutral. Because really, most people with "disabilities" are able to do all the things everyone else can do, they just do them in a different way.


@Margot Harrington@twitter I don't know, I go back and forth on this one. I have a disability (chronic invisible illness, woo...), and I usually just own the "disabled" label. I mean, it's labeled a disability under law, and that's what people call it, so why not own it? Its negativity comes from the outside, not from me. Differently-abled and person-first wording ignores disability for what it is: our bodies are different than yours.
Fuckthedisabled on tumblr explains it well, but a little more harshly than I like-- don't think I'm attacking you or anything! http://fuckthedisabled.tumblr.com/labels

fondue with cheddar

@Shayna Well said. That reminds me of a comic strip I saw a great many years ago that really stuck with me. It was about race, but the message is the same. The first panel was a white person saying to their spouse, "Why can't we just ignore our differences and get along?" The second panel was a black person saying to their spouse, "Why can't we just accept our differences and get along?"


@playingpossum I think I'm in love with your son.

Betheny Winkler@twitter

My dog and I were nearly run over in a parking lot Saturday. The witch was in the h/c spot, I'm in wheelchair, I have to go behind her to reach my van. She slams it in reverse. Talk about hulking out! I resent the arrogance, the entitlement and the mortal gd danger when I'm trying to take care of business.If you hear of a crazy middle-aged wheeler going berserk in a parking lot this year, you'll know somebody backed over my dog b/c they couldn't be bothered parking properly. Please don't park in our spots...


@Betheny Winkler@twitter
I feel you. I get so angered when I see convertibles parked in handicapped spaces that have no disabled sticker. Like, "tempted to key the car" angry.


omg. ANYONE who says "you got a license to drive that thing?"


Springtime for Voldemort

Wow, that story is totally unbelievable! Except in that sort of 'but sadly I can totally believe it, because, damn, humans are assholes, and how have we not managed to kill each other off already with bullshit like that' sort of way.

Did this company/non-profit at least get some bad online reviews or something for failing on such a basic level?


This is such a great article! One of my cousins is in a wheelchair and whenever I have gone out with her I notice the stares and random people trying to help her out even though she doesn't need it. Beyond opening doors for her (which I think should be done for everyone anyway) I really try not to jump in unless she asks me to. It's kind of amazing the conclusions that people will jump to as soon as they see someone with a visible disability.


A few years ago I was walking to work and a guy in a wheelchair rolled straight up to me and put his hand between my legs. A quick and impactful way to learn that people in wheelchairs are just people like the rest of us.


@seaview I worked at a bookstore in college and a man asked me if I wanted to sit on his lap and go for a ride on his wheelchair. Ugh. People are people.


Speaking of condescending... I got tickets to see Paralympic Athletics which was the best thing ever, and when talking to an American friend about it she accidentally referred to it as the Special Olympics which made me RAGE.

At least in the UK, I really feel like the Paralympics has done an enormous amount of good for attitudes towards disabled people. But then I talk to people in the US who didn't even know it existed. PLUS I was really irritated at how feel American Paralympians I saw... I have a pretty hard time believing that there aren't enough talented disabled American athletes. It just shows a real lack of investment and priority which I think is really shit.


@cmcm It's really gross, the Paralympics are barely on TV at all over here. I *think* NBC has the broadcast rights just like they do for the Olympics (I believe it's a package deal?), but they don't air any of them on the main network, and very, very little of them on their smaller networks. So that definitely contributes to Americans being unaware, and even those of us who get into all things Olympic and would totally also be into all things Paralympic have a hard time following it.

New Hoarder

@Inconceivable! I set up a DVR search for "paralymp*" and was rewarded with three- 3!- whopping hours of end of the day/ week recaps for the entire 2+ weeks. What's sad is that this is the first time they've been broadcast AT ALL in the U.S. (on NBC Sports Network). I "watched" more of the Paralympics through viewing my aunt-in-law's photos of her dog watching them on TV in her flat in Liverpool, posted on Facebook.


@cmcm I saw some speculation about whether the lack of American Paralympians was tied to our terrible health care system. Because if most people here are just struggling to survive and get some kind of care and some kind of support because of their disability, imagine how hard it is to do all of that and actually train for a sport.


@thebestjasmine I didn't even think about that, but of course it does make sense. And it adds another layer to really upset me. America, you suck.

Sara Cantor@facebook


Also, unlike many European countries (heyyyy, Spain!), the US has no professional wheelchair sports. Boooooo!


My grandmother was disabled in NYC and she did ok! I think she got "lucky" in that she already had a job working for the government when she lost the use of her legs, so she got top of the line benefits/care for the times (1967). She was also already married and had two semi-grown kids, so she had more assistance than a single girl in the city, but she used to say that NYC was nice to be disabled in since things were so walkable (or wheelable i guess) and you could get everything delivered. That said, she used to have to carry around a special bus key that would enable the bus driver to lower the ramp, because otherwise they'd claim not to have it.

Judith Slutler

This is a great article. Accessibility issues are so important, and I'll forever be ashamed that I only started thinking about how shitty my city is for people with disabilities, once I had to navigate its elevatorless subway stations on crutches for a couple of months. I kept thinking that if I ever got into a wheelchair, I'd have to move back to the United States.

fondue with cheddar

Ironically, I first started becoming aware of accessibility issues when I did Web design at a university. Because we were a state university we had to comply by all the ADA rules, making our site clear and accessible to people using screen readers. It's something I'd never really thought about before that, and it really opened my eyes to accessibility barriers in the physical world as well.

I did have an aunt who had spina bifida and walked with crutches, but she got around so well and was so fiercely independent that I didn't even really see it as a disability. Is that weird?

Sara Cantor@facebook

@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325)

I get told all the time by non-disabled friends that I don't "seem" like I have a disability, or that they don't see my body as disabled. It's sweet of them and I totally understand where they're coming from, but it sometimes kind of bums me out because it just reinforces the idea of disability as something that makes you weak and dependent, which isn't at all the case! I feel the same way about Aimee Mullins choosing not to identify as disabled - the more people we remove from the category of disabled, the more narrow and restrictive it becomes for people who are still in it. I'd rather expand the boundaries of what disabled can mean than consider myself an exception.

Put another way: people telling me they forget I'm disabled because of how independent I am feels very similar to someone telling me they forget I'm a woman because I'm so [tough/smart/strong/whatever]. I know it's intended to be complimentary towards me, but it just ends up further putting down people in whatever group they're trying to distance me from.

fondue with cheddar

@Sara Cantor@facebook It's a shame because people really do mean well when they say what they say, but I can understand how upsetting it is.

Expanding the boundaries of what disabled can mean. Yeah! Honestly, I think it takes knowing someone who has a disability to learn what it really means, and that it's not necessarily debilitating.

Really, relying on a wheelchair to get around isn't very different from relying glasses in order to see. Sure, a person with poor vision can't function as well without glasses as they can with them, but that doesn't mean they're weak. They're just as strong and capable as anyone else, they just have one body part that doesn't function as well as it ought to and use an aid to make up for it. Nobody calls people who wear glasses "disabled", but really it IS a disability. I never really thought about it that way until now.


On the topic of wheelchairs getting better: http://www.wired.com/design/2012/08/flamethrowers-fighter-jet-seats-share-wheelchair-users-personalities/ (That's just one guy so it's not like it's mass-market, but wow!)


@Jawnita But seriously, guys: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gb5poTdUMg

We should kickstart (? I know nothing about online fundraising) the shit out of this thing.

fondue with cheddar

@Jawnita DUDE. That is one kickass wheelchair.


I live in Portland and I totally want to have a vodka soda with you!

This was a really great article and very thought-provoking! Lots I hadn't thought about when it came to accessibility issues.


I'm honestly surprised there isn't as much Wheelchair Badassery as I thought. You would think with all the tinkering sort of people in the world someone would have looked at a wheelchair and AT LEAST said "I think I can build a pacman game into this"
... that's not what I'm hoping to happen to my insulin pump or anything. Nope.

@Shayna Steampunk wheelchairs!


Great article.

College campuses are also really inaccessible. My mother has rheumatoid arthritis, and when I was visiting colleges (10+ years ago, now), we would often have to ask to take the elevator instead of stairs (she's since had her knee replaced, and stairs are easier, but they were really hard for her then). It's amazing how often the only elevator was a service elevator way the hell in the back somewhere (and how often tour guides didn't know where it was).

My Grandmother had polio in the 50s and now has post-polio syndrome. She was on crutches or in a scooter my whole life (she is now sadly pretty much bedridden). One time, we were in the mall, and some passerby made a comment about needing a scooter like hers. She was not amused. (She also had an injury a while ago, and the Occupational Therapist didn't really have anything useful to teach her, she's been unable to walk/stand unassisted for so long she already knew all the coping mechanisms)

(She also gave birth to five children naturally, and the last two were after the polio; she said the nurses pushed on her stomach to help her deliver, which I think IS pretty amazing)


@Blushingflwr The college campus thing amazed me. I'm from Miami, which is a new city with recent construction, so when I went to school in Philly the idea of multistory buildings with no elevator blew my mind. I'd never seen anything like it, outside of people's houses. And there were only two dorms that were wheelchair accessible at all, because the others had stoops and other blocks just to get in the door, and that's only the first floor. I had friends that couldn't get into entire buildings and classes had to be moved if they signed up, to much grumbling and grousing by the administration. 'Cause, classy people.

Petit Prince

This is probably the most appropriate place I can think of to confess that I have extremely complex feelings about how attractive I think Oscar Pistorius is. I start thinking about how hot he is, and then I think about how I'd completely do him "despite" his legs, then I think that's terrible because its not "despite" at all, but its also not "because" of his legs because its also not a fetish of mine, not that its wrong to fetishize it, unless it sometimes is and after a while my brain melts down and I loop right back to the beginning of "but he's really cute." Sigh.


I have a question for A Woman In A Wheelchair: What about kids? Meaning: I'm out with my 2.5 year old. She sees A Woman In A Wheelchair, points, and is all "What's going on?!" Obviously, I answer "That is A Woman Sipping Vodka In A Wheelchair," but what if she wants to go up to you? (she's very friendly) What if she's super curious? I don't want to be all "Don't look!" and pull her away, but I don't want you to feel uncomfortable either. Thoughts?

Sara Cantor@facebook

Woman who walks with a cane here! I'm really really into it when parents encourage their curious children to ask me directly about my disability; nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is more infuriating than overhearing parents teaching their children that disability is shameful by shushing them.

Not everyone is into talking about their disability, though! I think a great compromise would be to remind your child that everyone's body works differently, and sometimes that means walking with a cane or using a wheelchair or limping, etc. Even better would be to tie it into the experience of someone your child knows, like the time your aunt broke her leg and had to walk with crutches (or whatever applies). Anything to normalize the situation and teach your child that disability is just a part of life.

Personally, I find it mad cute when little kids ask me about my disability, because they're so nonchalant about it:

"What happened to your legs?"
"Well, I have an injury from before I was born that makes it so my brain can't talk to my legs very well, so I use a cane to help me walk"
"Oh, cool."

Like, I've never had a kid ask me any of the super-invasive questions that adults tend to ask, and if they did, I'd feel much more comfortable declining to answer than I do when a pushy grownup tries to pry into my life. So I'd err on the side of letting your child ask the questions she wants to ask! But again, I can't speak for everyone, so if someone has a different experience/preference, please speak up!

Kate Musgrove

Having read this article I think YOU ARE AMAZING but I do not mean it in that bullshit tampon aisle way. I mean that you personally, are an amazing writer and I hope we hear a lot more from you.


Thanks for posting this! Now I will try to be more aware of what seemingly-nice things can come off as condescending. I could see myself inadvertently being one of those people, and you're right! That's not right. Everybody's just people.


It took until I had a month long period walking (and commuting on public transportation with) a cane to really get how inaccessible things can be, and how rude and intrusive people are. And that's just a stupid month with a cane, and in the relatively accessible bay area. Thanks so much for this.


Totally late to the party, but the BBC did a documentary called My Perfect Wheelchair, by Andrew Slorance, earlier this year:


(Link is to article on BBC News site.) It's about a designer who was intent on re-imagining wheelchairs. If you're in the UK, you can still watch short clips of it on the Beeb's site. Otherwise, the full doc is bouncing around the less-than-legit areas of the net if you wanted to seek it out.

Sara Cantor@facebook

@Petit Prince

This is something I worry about all the time as a person with a disability - I don't want someone to want me because of my disability (not an object, thanks!) or in spite of it, and often it seems like there's not another solution. But I've been heartened by the idea that my disability can just be a part of who I am, like my freckles - it'd be weird for someone to love me because of them, but equally weird for someone to love me in spite of them. So Oscar Pistorius is hot, and he's disabled. Being disabled doesn't affect how desirable he is to you, and that's awesome! The danger isn't thinking he's hot, but not allowing yourself to think he's hot because of his disability - people with disabilities can often be asexualized, but we're just as sexual as y'all without disabilities, I swear!

fondue with cheddar

Can I use this space to talk about my aunt who died earlier this year? She was born with spina bifida, they said she would live two weeks, but she survived. Then they said she would never be able to get around without a wheelchair, but she built up enough strength and mobility to walk with crutches. When it came time for her to start school, they took one look at her and said she couldn't go to school there. My grandfather insisted, and she was able to have a normal childhood.

She always lived on her own and never asked for help. When she got older and weaker she got a helper dog so she wouldn't have to rely on humans. She was independent to a fault. It was very important to her to prove (to herself? to everyone else? both?) that she didn't need help. It hurt her father and siblings to see her suffer and refuse assistance, but I totally got it. All her life people told her she couldn't do things and they treated her differently, and she just wanted to be normal. She WAS normal. But she was so determined to never show weakness that she withdrew from the family when she started to get sick. She came to my wedding in 2003, and I didn't see her again until my uncle's funeral in 2011. We didn't even know she had cancer until she was in hospice.

I've never said this out loud, but I honestly think that society's attitude toward people with disabilities, toward her, is what killed her. Because normally people reach out to their loved ones when they need it. They discuss their problems and they ask for help when they need it. I can't help thinking that, if she'd been treated the same as everyone else, she wouldn't have died before her time.

Megan Martens@facebook

Did anyone else catch the show "Push Girls" on Sundance? It follows 4 women in Los Angeles that are paralyzed and use wheelchairs. It's really interesting. Much better than most of the crap reality t.v. out there.


Re: wheelchair design: my bff/roomie and I both have disabilities and have both been in wheelchairs, but had no idea that no one was doing better-enough, cool-enough wheelchairs! Still! Perhaps we've found a new calling. (He's brilliant with machines... I'm not bad either.)


So I've been in a wheelchair since birth (no I didn't come out of the canal in a chair :)) and have struggled the last five years finding a job. I previously had a job for 7 years doing medical transcription for a small pediatric clinic. Since being laid off almost 5 years ago I have struggled to find anything in that line of work and have just dreaded that type of work. I have grown to really hate it. I have no clue whatsoever what I want to do with my life and feel extremely depressed day after day of not having a job, like I am supposed to want. What advice do you give someone in their 30s who doesn't know what they want to do and has never had an epiphany of their life's goal?


He led the effort three years ago to push a cap-and-trade bill to limit greenhouse gas emissions, although he ultimately was unsuccessful, and he has been vocal about the need to confront climate change.invisible dog fence installation


xtremely depressed day after day of not having a job, like I am supposed to want. What advice do you give someone in their 30s who doesn't know what they want to do and has never had an epiphany of their life's goal? food storage

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