Saturday, July 24, 2010

Temporarily Disabled - A Good Lesson

It is difficult to fully understand the effect of physical obstacles on anyone with a disability. Unless we expereince the pain of a certain movement or the inability to access something necessary, we don't truly get it.

Physical obstacles are one thing, though; they have physical solutions. Social obstacles are quite another. Voiced social obstacles, yet another.

I never really understood (and probably still don't, entirely) what people with disabilities experience daily, until I had arthritis and hip replacement surgery. I walked with a cane for several months.

Like anyone else, I became frustrated when a seemingly abled person used the bathroom facilities for people with disabilities - that bar on the wall is there for a reason! The attached bar is the solution to the physical obstacle. Lack of understanding, or caring, is the social obstacle.

Many, many people would practically fall over themselves to help me, hold the door for me, stop and wait while I crossed the street. I felt grateful to them all and said so.

The very worst experiences, however, were when people felt that they just had to express their impatience and often downright hatred to me. Most of the time, it seemed that the dislike arose from the fact that I was in the way and for too long.

During the months of using a cane, I was sworn at, frowned at, told to just die and stop annoying the able-bodied. I was told to get out of the way, to hurry up, to stay home. I had doors let go in my face, and on one occasion ,I was almost knocked down by a car when the driver thought I was too slow crossing.

I have to say that the anger I aroused in some people completely floored me - maybe I shouldn't have been surprised but I was. I was also amazed at how easily people give themselves permission to say the most awful things to a complete stranger (well, to anyone really).

I think that I have been mostly helpful and supportive of people with disabilities over the years, but have had my eyes opened by the experience of having a disability.

I don't know what the answer is, but education in empathy and compassion has to be a big part, and we have to try to undo that terrible sense of entitlement that some people have that others, especially those with disabilities, should simply cease to exist rather than be an inconveninece.


AnfinsenArt said...

Sad story! People seem to be in such a hurry these days, with a lot of stress of their own. Also there seems to be a lot of "me first" mentality. Thanks for the wake up call! God bless.

corfubob said...

A very gentle 'rant' Chris. If there is a rise in this kind of behaviour, it seems certain that it associated with local conditions of wealth production/population density combined with middle-class apathy.

In London once, about 17 years ago I was driving along in fairly slow traffic, when a policeman flagged me down. "Did you see that lady standing on the pavement (sidewalk) back there. I had, and said so. "Do you thing she was waiting to cross?" I agreed she might have been and got a polite lecture in 'consideration' It was not a crossing place where traffic is more or less obliged to stop for someone waiting to cross, even though there are no lights. My apology was sincere, not possessing a driver's licence at the time.

As you describe it your experience quite shocks me, but only a raving socialist would suggest slowing up the race to prosperity, back peddling a bit, learning to live with less, having more patience with the slow-moving (and slow-thinking) Take care, Bob

Jewel said...

This can be compared in some respects with having a child in a buggy too, generally people are nicer to you, and car drivers often slow down, but some folk just think you're in the way.

I think society still has some way to go in accepting disabled people.

ChrisJ said...

I think there is more and more "me first" mentality.

ChrisJ said...


Raving socialist, then, I am - on the warpath against the prospering of a kind of "psychopathy."

ChrisJ said...


Yes, I've heard some not-so-nice comments to moms with babies and toddlers.

So sad,

Judie said...

I pulled into the pharmacy recently to pick up a few things, and as I got out of the car, I noticed an elderly gentleman with a cane trying to step up onto the sidewalk. He was hesitant and appeared fearful that he would fall. Several people were just watching him. I walked over and took his arm, and said, "It's a high curb. Let me help you."
"Thank you," he said. "Sometimes I get a little shaky."

I have to have one of my feet rebuilt this fall, and will be in a cast for about 4 months. I do not suffer fools, gladly or any other way, and if anyone becomes impatient with me, I will shame them to no end. It takes very little effort to show sympathy to others.

ChrisJ said...


Whatever the reason for having your foot rebuilt, it must be no picnic.

I need a second hip replacement; I'll need someone with your spunk with me when I go out!!!

Hels said...

Chris, that you should detect some frustration from people who felt you were moving too slowly does not surprise me for a moment.

But hatred is almost beyond my comprehension. Being sworn at, being told to just die and having doors let go in your face is contemptible. What were they thinking - that they would never become either sick or frail in their own lives? that their own time is so precious that everyone who is in their way should be locked away in an asylum?

My husband's (much) older sister is in Melbourne just now, after her husband went into permament care in Sydney. She is feeling frail, confused and very slow.

Fortunately noone has been rude or impatient, as far as I can see. But if it happened, I may be tempted to grab her walking stick and poke it in the eye of the first vulgar creature to open his/her mouth.

Corinne Rodrigues said...

It's amazing how inconsiderate and mean human beings can be....
Following you from BC

ChrisJ said...


I don't think that people do stop and think; they just rant in the moment. I was also surprised at how some people my own age were sometimes the rude ones - you know "young people today" and all that. But no; sometimes the middle aged ones were not so nice.

ChrisJ said...

Hi Corrine,

Yes, people never cease to amaze me - and very often not in a good way.

Thanks for following and for commenting.

ChrisJ said...


Also, I do believe that some of it is exactly that people don't want to think that something similar might happen to them.

Judie said...

Many years ago, when astrology was all the rage, I was told by an astrologer friend of my SIL that Pisces are plagued with foot issues. If that is true, then that esplains why my feet are so gnarled! I had surgery on the right one about 3 years ago, and have been putting off having the other foot rebuilt, but now I have to! It won't be fun, but I just can't take the pain any more!! It has seriously affected my golf game!! Hahaha!

ChrisJ said...


I have no excuse for my golf game!!!!

Owen Gray said...

I can remember as kid reading John Howard Griffin's Black Like Me, and being aghast that the same man could be treated so differently after "changing" the colour of his skin.

It's one thing to witness human heartlessness. It's something else again to experience it.

Judie said...

I use any excuse I can get away with. The best one I have ever used for missing a very makeable putt for birdie just happens to be absolutely true--As we were walking to the green, a coyote came out of the woods, ran on the green, and took my ball! I yelled at him and he dropped it about 60 feet from the hole! It had been about 15 inches from the pin! Bummer!

Ciss B said...

Sadly, Chris the idea of care and kindness is no longer an important part of what is taught to children...and older ones.

From experience I know though mine is not a physical disability, I can equate.

ChrisJ said...


I remember reading "Black Like Me" and feeling exactly the same. It's sad and seems not to improve in any lasting way.

ChrisJ said...


That's a good excuse and a great story.

ChrisJ said...


I do think it's getting worse, even though some of the rudeness was from people my own age.

Judie said...

After today, I am thinking that some people are just uncomfortable with disabilities, and don't really know how to react.

As you know, Rod's Mum is dying. We were in Atlanta with her for 6 weeks in May/June. Then we came home. She has been slowly going downhill, and we are getting down to the wire here. Rod's siblings just do not know how to deal with this. Rod's brother called and asked us to come back. The hospice people have told them that they need to tell Mum that she is dying, because she needs permission from them to die. They can't do this, so they want us (namely me) to come back and handle it for them. I have no problem with helping her to come to terms with this and let go, and I cannot understand why her own children cannot seem to grasp this important concept.

Sometimes people just don't know what to do. It probably makes them angry. Or maybe they think it might happen to them, and the thought of that makes them scared.

Remember the scene in Moonstruck when Cher slaps Nicholas Cage and says, "Snap out of it!" Well, I am just the person to do that!

Wish me luck.

ChrisJ said...


That's really a difficult situation. I know what you mean, though, some people just can't do those hard but necessary things.

You get all the luck I can send you.

askcherlock said...

What you have been through has to have been difficult and having people become impatient can only be demoralizing. I had a sort of reverse situation recently. My husband and I went to the mall, parked the car, and as we walked toward the entrance, we noticed that an elderly woman had fallen face down on the curb. We were the first ones to get to her. I told her not to move, and held her head so I could stop her nose from bleeding. My husband called 911 for an ambulance. Soon passersby were coming over and each asked what they could do. I asked the woman if she had a cell phone. She did. I asked if we could call her family. She was 90 years old but had her son's number programmed in the phone. One of the people standing there called him. He arrived about the same time as the ambulance. Everyone there showed great concern for this woman, and it was heart-warming. Perhaps not all is lost in the character of our society.

ChrisJ said...


It's always heartwarming when people do the right thing. As I said in the post, many people practically fell over themselves to open doors, etc for me. It wasn't all bad - I guess the rude ones just stand out more.

It's good that things turned out well for the woman. Will you be able to follow up?