Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Limitations and Disabilities

Angie here: Interesting and excellent learning experiences happen when we run into limitations and disabililties in unexpected situations.

Limitations and disabilities from a bird's eye view.
This exotic bird raced along his fence at the Memphis Zoo. He tried and tried to figure out how he could get on the other side of the fence.

Since I broke my foot a little over a week ago, I've experienced what someone with disabilities and limitations face in the most unexpected of places.

Public bathroom doors. Lots of huge stalls with railings. Abundance of them. So I thought we were taking care of our disabled brothers and sisters. Silly me! I never realized that our "accessible facilities" really aren't all that accessible.

Yes, we all know stairs are a challenge. Yes, we all know curbs are a challenge. They are in a boot and using crutches too. But there's ramps and elevators, right? Just so you know, inclines and fast closing doors can really cause a scare!

But the most difficult challenge I've found are the heavily weighted doors in hotels, restaurants, and other public places. Many have door handles too, rather than a push door. So anyone who has to manipulate the door knob, weight of the door, and the worst...spring-loaded doors is not able to get in without a serious battle. Turning my back to one door, I still couldn't push it open on one leg and crutches even though I'm fairly strong...for a girl ;-)

Case in point: I went to a fund raiser at a hotel last week. The ladies restroom had two very heavy, spring-loaded doors too close together to manage between them, let alone get inside one on my own. The outside door had a handle. I couldn't use the handle and manage my crutches at the same time. When I tried, I managed to get the door open 2 inches and auto-closed before I could get in. It opened just far enough to get the bottom peg of my crutch stuck in the door. So stuck I couldn't budge the door off it. I couldn't let go of the crutch and pull it free without putting my broken foot down. On 100% no weight orders, I couldn't leave the door!

Lucky me, someone saw and ran to my assistance. But then after I managed to go in, I had the same problem coming out. It took forever. Finally another person came in and let me out of my bathroom prison.

I learned that even though we have handicap stalls, many of our buildings are not truly accessible to people with limitations and disabilities. This breaks my heart for those who have to deal with a struggle like our caged bird in the above photo.

I have 3-5 weeks in this boot, and hopefully not a cast after next week's appointment, but I think I better understand what it's like to have a disability after being caged in the public bathroom. Like the old saying, "Don't judge a man until you've walked a mile in his moccasins." Or in my case, hopped in one.

In what way have you experienced a caged bird's eye view?

Have you had the opportunity to walk in another's moccasins?

For writers, have you ever acted out a character's physical situation to be sure you understood their limitations?


  1. Angie,
    So sorry to hear that you broke your foot! A number of years ago, I tore all the ligaments in my right knee, resulting in surgery later that day and 3 months in a hip to ankle solid brace - didn't bend at all. So I know where you're coming from regarding the "handicap accessible" - there are very few true handicap accessible facilities!

  2. Angie, how frustrating! I remember when I broke my foot and had to wear a boot and be on crutches. I was teaching at the time and usually went up some pretty steep steps each morning. And I usually pulled a rolling bag with all my gear! So I had to move everything to a backpack. Then I had to depend on people to help me get doors open. It was sooo frustrating and tiring. And I thought I'd fall over backwards down those steps with that heavy backpack! Scary, too.

    I hope you're back to new soon. Maybe you can help educate businesses on how handicap-accessible they really are.

  3. All this is very difficult. And my heart goes out to you.

    What is even more difficult is when family doesn't care and plan things you know you can't go to. So you get to stay home alone or be alone while down there.

  4. Anonymous, that does sound very difficult. If you're in that situation, I'm so sorry.

  5. It's so hard when it feels like others don't care about us or like we can't get needs met. Anonymous, I'm praying for you.

    One thing I've found that helps me with family issues is to get my need met outside of my family. It takes work on my part to build the relationships, but I've loved the opportunity that online communities and social media have provided in building new friendships. Twitter and Facebook and the new Google Plus have wonderful opportunities for creating new relationships. But knowing that they still take time to build is an important element.

  6. Ang,
    Wow--crazy times. It is difficult when we're out of our element in any way.
    I have never acted out any type of situation. I can't imagine! I know I feel out of sorts just when I'm not feeling well.

  7. Ang,
    I think all of us take for granted our ease of movement. Then, when we are limited, our eyes are wide open. I've been fortunate, but my husband had an injury that limited him for months. I got a taste of caring for him as well.

    Anonymous, I agree with Angie and I'll be praying for you. Sometimes family is not there when we expect they should be. Like at the sign of trouble, they're gone. I don't know your situation, but I pray someone outside of your family can help you.