Pushing the boundaries for people in wheelchairs

One day you’re walking, next day you’re not.

One day, you’re power walking because you have to get in your cardio someway, suddenly in what feels like a blink of an eye…you’re stuck in a seated position for the rest of your life.

To many people, their empathy is at an all time low and they think and believe that these people do not need special ramps, doors, etc. It very easy for us walking types to disregard the general ways of mobilization. When we want to go somewhere, we go. When we have an obstacle, we overcome it. Thankfully, we have that ability.

But the people who have been put in chairs or born into them, they don’t have this option. However, there is not a single person with a disability that will admit they can’t do something  -because they can.

When I was 15 years old, I wanted to climb mountains. I lived in a place where mountains and large rocks were everywhere. Every time I looked up at a rock face there was someone scaling it. It felt like everyone was climbing except me.

I walked into a rock climbing shop and asked if there was anyone who would teach me how to climb, but not cost an arm and a leg. In fact, at 15…free was my only option. A gentleman behind the counter chuckled and gave me a slip of receipt paper with phone number on it. The guy told me that this was a number to the only person he knew that would teach me how to climb for free.

I called the number and soon I was standing at the front door of a strange house with climbing “holds” all over it. If anyone was a teacher of climbing, it would be a person who changed his entire house into a climbing range or “rock wall”. The door opened and an older man in a wheelchair greeted me and asked me to come in. I made small talk waiting for the person I had came to see. An hour went by and I was getting tired of waiting, so I asked the gentleman when Dan the instructor would be home. He explained that he was already here, and we went into the den or what I found was called the trophy room. The entire place was filled, top to bottom with trophies, plaques, and pictures.

Suddenly I realized, the man in the chair was the man in the pictures. I asked him what had happened and he explained that nothing had happened. He was born with partial movement of his legs, and his first growth spurt pulled the spinal cord to destroy that partial movement – in fact he had never walked. However, this trophy room was filled with mountain climbing accolades.

The next year was filled with me and Dan hanging off cliffs and mountains with his “dead legs” dangling behind him. Then one day he asked me to drive him home from the hospital. When I got there, Dan wheeled out sans legs. He decided that they were holding him back and he had them amputated.

In the 5 years I knew Dan I watched him pull his chair up stairs that didn’t have a ramp. Fold up his chair and crawl through a doorway that wasn’t made to be wheelchair accessible. It was heart wrenching to watch a man who could climb the north face of Mt. Rainer with out ropes (free climbing) but because of our world’s view on the handicapped, he had to crawl and pull himself with only his arms into businesses and restaurants, because there was no way to get his wheelchair into the door.  Then once in the door, it was impossible to maneuver his chair because there just wasn’t enough room.

Now we have stories like that of Oscar Pistorious who achieved gold in the para Olympics and qualified for the Olympic finals in the able bodies Olympics. He has inspired an entire generation of disabled people. Yet, when he takes off his blades or his false legs, he is back to dealing with the doors that won’t open, the ramps that aren’t accessible, or the bathrooms that are used by able bodies people.

This isn’t right. This is something we need to change. This is something we need to change in this world.

What could we do to change the way things are, and make this world more wheelchair and handicapped friendly?

What are you going to do?

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