The Mighty Logo

How I Responded to Broken Elevators as a Woman With Rheumatoid Arthritis

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I usually find Monday mornings to be quite disagreeable. I have rheumatoid arthritis and am physically limited due to joint involvement. I may have overdone it over the weekend, and pay for it on Monday as I get ready for work. I love my job, so it is usually easy to push through the stiffness and pain and get going for the day.

On this Monday, it was 0 degrees out as I was leaving my house. The driveway was ridges of solid ice, but the roads were clean and clear so all was well. I arrived at work on time and ready to see what excitement the day would bring me. I work at the State Office Building, which houses many state agencies. The building was recently renovated after a flood several years ago, and is modern and bright. The main atrium has a huge granite staircase with metal inserts to prevent slips. Even on good RA days I usually avoid the stairs, as my feet catch on the inserts and/or I do not feel super steady on my feet first thing in the morning. There are two elevators right in the lobby across from the magnificent staircase, and I usually head straight to them.

That day, as I pushed the elevator button, I realized it was not lighting up. A custodian came up behind me and stated that the elevators were not working. I turned around, cane in hand, obviously indicating that I needed support and assistance with walking. I asked how I was supposed to get upstairs, and he pointed to the stairs and told me that was the only way. I waved my cane and said I was physically disabled and the stairs would be difficult. He then tried to direct me out of the building, across a snowy icy courtyard to another building that may or may not have a working elevator I could try to use. I laughed out loud as a defense mechanism, as I really felt like either crying or screaming.

I sat down in a lobby chair while I gathered my wits. My choices were to go back out of the lobby to see if building security had a possible solution, or try to maneuver the stairs. I was fuming and felt my positive energy was being used up and converted to anger, so I took some deep breaths and decided to try to make it up the stairs. I took one stair at a time, gripping the railing with white knuckles. I made it without any issues or stumbles. Upon my arrival to my office, I found our department operations manager and relayed the situation to her. I asked about contingency plans for elevator outages, and gave her details on how this issue would have a severe impact on a wheelchair user. No answers so far, but I will stay on top of this. I have to as I may not be able to get up the stairs the next time.

I refuse to let this dictate how I will feel today or to replace my positive mindset. I also refuse to let blatant examples of ableism get to me. But I will use this situation to figure out potential solutions and to educate others.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Photo via Thinkstock.

Originally published: December 27, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home