“Look down, feet up. Look down, feet up.” This is my continuous train of thought whenever I’m walking. Instead of wandering thoughts about what I’m going to do for the rest of the day or striking up a casual conversation with people on my way to class, my primary concern while walking is not falling down. I don’t like talking about my cerebral palsy (CP) and how it affects me simply because I don’t want anyone’s pity. I don’t want to be looked down upon as “that girl with cerebral palsy” or “that girl who walks awkwardly.” I try to not let my cerebral palsy define me, but sometimes it gets in the way.
The most obvious example I can think of is randomly falling down. Y’all, I fall down way too many times. This is due to my lack of coordination and horrible balance. Anything and everything will cause me to fall, from not picking up my toes to a random bump in the road. That’s why I always have to look down whenever I walk. My brain signals aren’t wired to where I can easily walk on whatever terrain I want to. Instead, I have to pick and choose where I place my feet and keep a conscious mind about how I’m going to travel from point A to B.
This, in turn, leads me to me to my main part of my post: The eight things that are evil! OK, these things aren’t evil per say, but they have the tendency to trip me up on many occasions.
In the pictures below, I’ll provide ways to get around these “evil” things by recommending reasonable accommodations and ways in which others could help me make walking a little bit easier. ( I’m super stubborn so I might resist your help.) In return, I’ll bake you cookies.
1. My feet.
Why they’re evil: I know I’m supposed to love my feet because God created me this way, but sometimes they can be really annoying. My feet can be unreliable and slip under me without any notice. They have a mind of their own, and sometimes I wish they would behave.
What you can do: Not much. And I can’t saw off my feet since that would be really painful. Just don’t awkwardly stare if you see me swaggering down the hallway. I have eyes on the back of my head.
2. Cracks in the sidewalk.
Why they’re evil: Ugh, if only sidewalks were one big sheet of concrete! These cracks are evil not only because if you step on one, they can break your mother’s back, but if I forget to pick up my toes, I’ll face plant into the concrete.
What you can do: If you’re walking with me, remind me to watch out for things like this. Most of my falls are due to me not paying attention to the pavement in front of me, and then Chandler takes a tumble.
3. Stairs with no handrail.
Why they’re evil: Stairs with no handrail are the equivalent of me walking on a tightrope. I can’t go upstairs without a handrail, so if I choose to venture up these stairs, I either feel super confident or incredibly scared that I’ll make a fool out of myself in public.
What you can do: Yay, there are options here! The easiest way you could help me is by holding my hand as I walk up the stairs. I’m starting to carry hand sanitizer in my purse, so if germs are a thing for you, hopefully that will ease your fears. I promise I’m not trying to flirt with you if I ask you to hold my hand; I just need it for balance!
Another thing you can do is advocate for more handrails along stairs. This is super important to me, and not only will it eliminate the need for you to hold my hand, but it will help plenty of other disabled individuals, too.
The third and most preferred option is to find me a boyfriend so I don’t have to feel awkward when holding his hand. I mean, honestly, that’s the only reason why I want a boyfriend. Who needs romance anyway?
4. Uneven surfaces.
Why they’re evil: Uneven surfaces are so unpredictable to me, and since the mechanics of my feet don’t work right in the first place, adding an uneven terrain makes walking that much more difficult.
What you can do: Ask for my hand or try to find another less bumpy path. There are also ways to add yellow paint to uneven areas of a sidewalk to warn a walker there’s uneven terrain.
Why they’re evil: I understand the primary purpose of curbs is to help people not get run over by cars, which is necessary and important. As stated earlier, I can’t go upstairs without handrails, and I can’t get up curbs without handrails either. This is a big problem I’m still working on, but it gets in the way of not only me, but many other individuals who are in wheelchairs or walkers.
What you can do: Help advocate for more ramps, handrails or wheelchair-accessible places. If you see me awkwardly standing still at a large curb, feel free to hold my hand or find something nearby I can grab onto to get my balance.
Why it’s evil: Now don’t get me wrong, grass is super pretty. It’s important we have enough grass in the world to help our ecosystem and aid our environment. But just because it’s pretty and green doesn’t mean I don’t fall on it. Grass is super uneven to walk on since most of the soil on the ground is uneven.
What you can do: Please don’t start a petition to remove the grass everywhere so I can walk. Just hold my hand or something.
Why it’s evil: The type of gravel pictured here doesn’t seem so bad, but once I start walking, the rocks start flying. There were way too many memories of me in elementary school constantly going to the nurses’ office because I fell for the umpteenth time slipping on some gravel. My bad, school nurse, my bad.
What you can do: Please don’t remove the gravel by hand because it’s gross. I’ve tried doing that and had really dirty hands in the process. Also, don’t start a petition to remove all of the gravel in the world, because it’s important for playgrounds. Just hold my hand. If I start to slip, follow my body and try to catch me if I fall, which I might do (sorry in advance!).
Why it’s evil: Ahhh, dirt. I fondly remember playing with you as a kid. However, times have changed, and I no longer see you as a friend but rather an enemy. Dirt is evil because it’s obviously dirty, and no one really wants to step in a pile of dirt unless they’re participating in a social norms project. Since I’m clumsy and also rather unlucky, there’s a chance that dirt could easily turn into mud, and I could sink into a mud pit but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
What you can do: If for some strange reason you find me in a dirt pit, let me see if I can get out of it first because the last thing I want is for you to get dirty, too. Be careful because I’ve noticed I can confuse dirt pits with fire ant hills. Fun memories from freshman year.
Wow, you made it this far. I’m so proud of you! I bet you’re probably intimidated by my long list of things that make me fall and are hesitant to become friends with me. However, I promise these things are temporary (and mostly fixable), and I always make light of the situation, like I’m trying to do in this story. At the end of the day, I’m just aiming for awareness of these things while trying to maintain a positive perspective.