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When Doors Are Closed to Me as a Person With a Physical Disability

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I’ve recently had my first experience being on crutches, after knee surgery. Other surgeries were wrists; past lower body injuries always got me a glamorous Velcro boot.

I’ve only had rheumatoid arthritis for four (extremely long) years, and I know that the possibility of another surgery, injury, and/or disability is pretty good. Sure, that sucks. But you know what sucks more?

The world is not accommodating for people with disabilities at all. I know, I know. Newsflash, right? No.

The week after my surgery, I got sick and decided to run up to Patient First — translation: hobble to my mom’s car and have her drive me. When we arrived, I got up on my crutches and got to the doors. They were regular, pull handle doors. Two sets of them. No automatic door button, no option for me to open them on my own and not risk injuring my recovering knee.

In case you aren’t familiar with it, Patient First is an urgent care clinic where people go when they are sick. When they have injured their leg playing soccer, or hurt themselves on the job. And the doors aren’t accessible to people without two working legs and arms. Totally makes sense.

After that experience, I started noticing the doors at every single place I went to. 7-11? No Slurpee for you, young man using a cane. Old Navy? Nope. You didn’t think people with a disability should be able to shop for their own clothes, did you? Physical therapy? Nope — so angry about that one.

If I’m understanding things correctly, those of us with a disability, whether permanent or temporary, should only be able to visit the pharmacy and the hospital. That’s all we need, right?


If you’re a business owner, listen up. I don’t claim to know the first thing about the expense of disability-accessible doors. I’m sure there are building code and security issues as well. But what I do know is that everyone has a right to go to any business they like and be able to get in the door.

So what can you do?

  • Install a doorbell. A simple button that someone at wheelchair height can utilize to alert someone inside that he/she needs assistance. Go visit a gas station pump; you’ll see one there.
  • Utilize your greeter. So many businesses have someone standing or sitting at the front door to greet customers. Train them! Empower them to look for those in need and be ready to assist.

As a fiercely independent person, dealing with crutches and inaccessibility was very upsetting. For me, there was an end in sight, but plenty of others are going to be using crutches, canes, or wheelchairs forever. Please don’t lock us out.

Follow this journey on And Then You’re At Jax.

Originally published: August 15, 2016
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