I had a bunch of errands to run on Saturday, so as usual, The Boy came with. He’s a good traveling buddy, and it gets him out of the house, so all good.
On this particular Saturday, we had a minivan full of stuff to donate to our local thrift store. Mostly stuffed animals. Three giant 45-gallon trash bags full. Where do they all come from?
With so many stuffed animals to transport, there wasn’t room in the back of the minivan for The Boy’s wheelchair. Didn’t think that would be a problem. Until I realized we also needed to pick some stuff up from the grocery store.
With no wheelchair.
On the way there, I started thinking out loud about how we were going to pick up groceries without the wheelchair for The Boy. He’s a very lanky 10 years old, so sitting in the cart isn’t an option.
Then I remembered that the grocery store has motor-carts, and The Boy has been using them with his aide. Right AFTER I suggested the motor-cart, I realized I didn’t know whether The Boy had actually driven one through the store itself.
This could be a disaster.
“I don’t know if this is such a good idea, pal,” I started.
“That’s OK Dad, I can handle it.”
“No really, I’m feeling pretty anxious about this.”
“Dad,” he said, “What do you tell me to do when I start worrying. I think you need to give this to Jesus.”
Busted. The Boy has a tendency to worry over and over, and we’ve been working on strategies to “let it go.” So far, the best one is a simple prayer: “Jesus, you see I’m worried about this. I can’t fix it. So YOU take care of it. Thank you. I trust you. Amen.”
So that’s what we did. It helped. A little.
Then we got to the store. I helped The Boy walk over to the motor-carts. Clearly, my low impulse control lad was not going to be driving this thing by himself.
So on I hopped, and The Boy sat between my legs.
And that’s when the real fun began. (By “fun” I mean “horror.”)
First, these motor-carts are NOT easy to drive. At least not when you have no time to practice. The hand controls were tricky, and there was a lot of jerky starting and stopping.
Second, it’s embarrassing. I felt highly conspicuous. Not the least because I look reasonable young and healthy. My minivan has a handicap tag, but now I didn’t have anything official to identify me. For all I know, we looked like a dad and son goofing around.
Third, I couldn’t reach anything! I wanted some frozen orange juice – the motor-cart blocked the outswinging freezer door. So I backed up, hopped off, and got my OJ (while onlookers stared in amazement at my miracle cure, I’m sure. Or maybe that was judgment).
Anything higher that the third shelf – out of reach. Again with the miracle cure and stares.
Fourth, negotiating the aisles was a nightmare. Have you ever noticed how much extra stuff is stacked in the aisles of a grocery store? Special displays, kiosks, standalone signs. Then there was the 10-foot high wall of coke cans. Disaster was always just one wrong move away. Then throw in the other shoppers. I have a hard-enough time not crashing into folks with a regular cart. Now I have to steer and accelerate at the same time?
Of course, The Boy was loving every minute of it, and grabbing for the accelerator all. the. time.
Finally, and this was the worst part – it was really intimidating. I’m a pretty tall guy – 6’4” in my socks. But now my head was about 3.5’ off the ground. Right at the level of everyone else’s belt buckle.
It was hard to see around all these thick waists. And claustrophobic. And did I mention intimidating?
Not just because everybody was so much taller than me, but because I couldn’t see well. And I felt like I was in their way, and took up too much space, and was clumsy and cumbersome.
Is this what The Boy feels like all the time?
He’s always been in a wheelchair, so he has nothing to compare it to like I do. But at the same time, the intimidation part felt really deep.
I thought I was really up on accessibility understanding.
But spending just half an hour at The Boy’s level was profoundly uncomfortable. And the problem was about 50% accessibility issues (doors blocked by motor-cart) and 50% psychological issues (not being able to look people in the eye).
I can work on the accessibility issues. Not sure what I can do about the psychological ones.
Through the Roof
A Blog Supported by the Mosaic ministry of Third Church, ECO
"Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on." (Mark 2:3-4)
About: This is a blog about accessibility, intimacy, and community. About being welcome. It’s also about bringing up The Boy. He's 10 years old and has cerebral palsy. Also popping up are The TeenGirl, who just turned 13, and The Mom, who is awesome. It's written by The Dad. It's my words, my view. Other people will think differently and have different opinions. Good.