Handicapable…with Limits

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I really thought I had the hang of maneuvering the electric cart as I zipped around Highland Park just prior to Christmas one late afternoon on a Friday. Focused on my list in relation to the specific aisle I needed to traverse, I rounded a corner and smashed into a display in the top center of the aisle. Mortified, I watched boxes of specialty items, along with the cardboard tower, come crashing down. My saving grace, at least it was boxes and not breakable containers. My second thought was how narrow the aisles are without added displays and the navigational impossibility if one is in an electric cart or wheelchair.

This new temporary reality of mine in regards to daily maneuvering resulted from foot and ankle surgery, rendering me incapable of walking unassisted without crutches for over a month. An awareness began to emerge in regards to the difficulties faced by those with physical challenges who rely on wheelchairs and other aids to get them through their day.

When I started physical therapy several weeks later, still relying on crutches and a boot, I entered the combined practice complex in Town, and was perplexed at the challenge in trying to open the main door. There was no automatic button to press. I had to struggle between balancing myself on crutches, carrying my purse, opening the door and lumbering through before it swung closed. How those in wheelchairs or pushing strollers with babies manage is incredible. My sense of humor took over once I entered the building. There straight in front of me was a blue square Handicap sign, complete with wheelchair logo, above the entrance to the elevators stating this was a handicap designated rescue space.

While at physical therapy, I struck up a conversation with another woman who had similar stories to tell in regards to her challenges in trying to physically get through the day. One challenge we both found daunting, stairs and steps. I shared with her my new appreciation for kids on crutches who hop up the curb, vs. walking around to the flat portion of the school entry walk, and open the door, propelling themselves in with backpack and other items in hand. I couldn’t even manage the nearly six inch curb in front of my son’s pediatrician, which had no breaks between the parking space and walkway to the door. I ended up literally crawling over it, much to the amusement of my 14-year-old son.

This truly made me realize what it must be like to have to deal with these obstacles on a daily basis, and how I’ve taken unimpeded access for granted. The other lesson I took from this is that of humility and grace. The only way I was able to complete most of my errands, in addition to my daily routine at home, was through the assistance of others. At every turn, help was offered in regards to opening doors, carrying items, assisting me in and out of my car. Friends, neighbors and other family came in on various days to drop off meals and drive my son to sports and appointments during those first few weeks of immobility. For this, I am grateful and more aware in anticipating and assisting others who face challenges in mobility.

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