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What I Wish Able-Bodied People Understood About Inaccessibility

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One of the biggest problems in my life is inaccessibility. I constantly have to deal with the fact that there are heavy doors and stairs in the world. I have learned to accept it, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it. Here are some stories of my most annoying experiences with inaccessibility.

When I was 18 I had my first job at Northern Trust Bank. I inputted data at a computer and worked for eight hours each day. It was tiresome, but it was an important experience. Anyway, one time I had to go to the bathroom and I couldn’t get out and had to yell for help. A businessman who was in a powerful position looked shocked and opened the door for me. He reported it to my supervisor, who instituted a “buddy system” for me and my disabled colleague to get in and out of the bathroom. I felt bad, because I knew my co-worker could use the facilities independently and I cost him that, but eventually “the buddy system” faded away and things got back to the norm. I took this as people “freaking out” because they thought I was stuck in the bathroom, but in reality I was just asking for help the only way I knew how.

I love and would do anything for professional wrestling. However, there have been experiences where I’ve tried to go a wrestling event, but couldn’t because of inaccessibility, or I couldn’t use the bathroom inside because of stairs. I go to Berwyn all the time for Shimmer, an all women’s wrestling promotion. I have to sit at the top of the balcony because the venue has stairs. This causes a myriad of issues. As I discussed before, I have to use the bathroom outside and I’m very scared that I will traumatize some of the wrestlers. And the experience itself can be awkward at times. Additionally, there is an intermission period where all the wrestlers shill their merchandise and I end up feeling lonely and isolated like a gargoyle, because I can’t get down the stairs. But despite this I keep going to the shows, because wrestling is enticing and I love it so much!

One of my most frustrating experiences as a wheelchair user is dealing with the lack of push pads on bathroom doors. This makes it extremely difficult to get out, and I often have to wait or peek out just to catch a glimpse of someone who could help me. There have been some other instances that have me left me frustrated too, like the Water Tower in my hometown having 10 steps or historical buildings not making their sites ADA compliant because they want to maintain a sense of “realism.” Despite this I just keep rolling. I advocate for myself and my disabled brothers and sisters. I know change takes time and doesn’t happen in one fell swoop. I just wait and hope people recognize the error of their ways, and until then, most of the time strangers are willing to lend a helping hand.

Inaccessibility is not going to go away in my lifetime. There will be times and situations where I have to adjust my life experiences to the able-bodied. However, I hope by reading this article you will come to an understanding of the trials and tribulations of stairs and doors with no push pads and think “Hey, this isn’t right.” Either way I’ll keep writing and rolling, and nothing can stop my mind from moving forward.

Getty image by Mikanaka.

Originally published: July 3, 2018
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