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The Privilege I Experience as an Ambulatory Disabled Person

This fall has been full of changes for me. I recently found out about an adaptive sports organization in my area and started playing sled hockey. Coincidentally, as I was leaving the gym after a Zumba class a few weeks ago, the quad rugby team from that same organization started their first practice of the season at the same gym and suggested I stay to be an extra player on the court to help the team during practice.

Although I don’t think I qualify for competition for quad rugby due to the nature of my disability, the team invited me to participate in practices for the season to help prepare the team for competition. Quad rugby practice and sled hockey practice have turned into the highlights of my week. If only I’d known about this resource sooner!

Although I’ve been disabled since birth due to my cerebral palsy, I’ve never spent a significant amount of time with other people with disabilities of any kind until now.

As I get to know more people with various disabilities, I’m becoming more aware of the privilege I have of being an ambulatory disabled person. I don’t mean this to say that people using wheelchairs or other mobility equipment are worse off than me, however, I do realize how much easier my life is due to our community being designed for people who walk.

I do struggle with many things as an ambulatory disabled person. I struggle walking long distances, climbing hills, and navigating uneven terrain. But now I’ve become more aware of the ease I have to step up onto a curb, navigate a few stairs to enter otherwise inaccessible areas, use far too small fitting areas at the store, and maneuver in department stores where clothing racks are too close together, among others. At a local department store the other day, I could barely even navigate a cart through the clothing racks without knocking things off the racks.

With all this privilege, I do recognize the many things ambulatory people with disabilities face that people who use wheelchairs don’t. One of the most obvious I can think of is the lack of seating throughout the community and in the stores that I go to – department stores, grocery stores. I am known to just sit on the floor regardless of the awkward stares I get from other customers. If sitting is what I need, I’ll do it even if getting up off the floor can be a struggle at times.

Some stores don’t have carts that many people use as a makeshift walker to navigate through large stores. Carts are also necessary for people who have a hard time carrying the items they wish to purchase throughout the store.

So, I do feel an immense amount of privilege being an ambulatory disabled person, but I need to remind myself that although some things may appear easier for me on the outside, the things I struggle with are just as valid as the obstacles wheelchair users face.

Getty image by Amy Aberkut.