Dear Son loved these walks. Every year, we admired nature at the season’s best. In the spring, we’d see the fifty flowering pear trees that lined the path that ran down the center of the neighborhood. I’d talk about how beautiful the trees were, as Dear Son would listen, or so I had hoped. I was never sure how much he would take in, but I would go ahead and describe or comment on nature as we walked through the area.
Sometimes, we’d be joined by a new mother in the neighborhood, who just had her baby. She’d be full of excitement and anxious to show off her new baby in her new carriage. She’d walk with us, on and off for the first few months, until her baby began to crawl or walk and then we’d never see her again. Being in a new neighborhood at the time, this happened a lot.
I must admit I’d be a tiny bit jealous at times, as they all moved on. It was kind of like we were stuck in a time warp, as the world and the neighbors moved on, leaving us by ourselves, walking down a different path, to our own drummers.
On one particular day, we ran into mother and her children. We stopped to talk to the mother and were chatting for a few minutes when her son came up. He stopped, gave Dear Son the once over and said, “What the heck happened to him? Does he have two broken legs or something?” The mother was mortified. I simply said, “No, he can’t walk.” By that time, I knew that a simple explanation was best for that child and I didn’t need to get into any more detail.
I always kind of missed being part of the whole neighborhood thing, at least on occasion, I suppose. It wasn’t that people weren’t friendly, they certainly were, it’s just that we didn’t fit into any of the boxes. Dear Son would never play soccer, he’d never play football and he’d never play baseball. And that’s what kids did in the suburbs.
I suppose in some ways, that’s the story of being disabled. It’s about never really fitting in, never having those normal experiences like everyone else. And that’s the good part. The bad news is when just getting through the day becomes a major event because well, everything is just too hard.
I get kind of envious sometimes, and I think that as a society we are really messed up. Our priorities aren’t in the right place, like a mother whose child is obsessed with looking good at the expense of everything else. Kind of embarrassing. Take for example, our obsession with technology. We can make these seemingly small iPODs that can hold a ton of music for $150 or so and yet, we can’t make a communication device for the disabled that is affordable. Instead, we have cool new communication devices like the Tango, that cost around $7000 or so, at least the last time I checked. No, everything that is really needed it pretty expensive. What does that say about us?
Or, let’s say, these new hospitals we are building. So many beautiful buildings, outfitted with the latest technology and yet, most aren’t built with a bathroom that I can change Dear Son diapers. At fifteen, I need a changing bench to lie him on, with a screen or curtain that pulls around for privacy, in a family washroom, so I don’t have to take him into a woman’s washroom or gasp, go into a men’s washroom to change him. I’ve written about it many times before, that there aren’t bathrooms to change him when we go out or even to the doctor. Heck the last time we went to Big Academic Medical Center, he needed to be changed, and I had to ask for a place to change him. The only place that worked was an examining room, but those were busy with patients, so we couldn’t use them. We were just there for lab work, and I guess, that doesn’t count. I suspect they saw my face turning red as our 2006 billed charges of $400k flashed in my mind and yet, Dear Son wasn’t the kind of patient that could go to the bathroom in their facility, unless it was an admission, then he could be changed in his room.
Dear Son is too heavy for me to lie on the ground, to change his diaper, and he can’t weight bear, so he can’t stand up to use a regular toilet. It would be my dream, to someday, see an ad for a new hospital, with a photo of a handicapped washroom, that I could change him in, as an exceptional feature, something which sets apart that facility from their competition. So many hospitals, have their mission statement posted in the Emergency Room, with something to the effect, “that they treat their patients with dignity”. That is, unless they have to go to the washroom. In that case, only the able bodied are treated with dignity. The severely handicapped, well, you have to figure something else out.
And so I ask you today, in honor of “Blogging Against Disabilism Day” to look around at your medical facility, and see if it’s really wheelchair accessible or accessible for your severely disabled patients. Try to find one washroom in your entire facility, that you can lie a patient down to change him/her. And if you can’t, put in a request a family washroom, that all patients can use, especially for those who can’t help themselves.
*This is a photo I took last year of one of our current walking trails near our home.