When I was little, I used to sit in the wheelchairs when I was at the doctorÕs office. While I was waiting for my appointment to start, I would spin around in circles, going back and forth, and try to do wheelies. I did that until I was about ten, which was when my mom told me that I was getting too old to get with that sort of thing. I always missed riding around in those wheelchairs, and sometimes I even wished I would break a leg or two so I would get to ride in one. Little did I know that riding in a wheelchair is not very fun if itÕs your single mode of transportation. I know this because I experienced it myself, and I donÕt think IÕll ever want to have broken legs again. It was early January when it all happened. The second semester of the school year had just started. My mom and I were in a bit of that post-holiday slump. We had decided to get in shape, so we bought some equipment to use at home. I was using an Ab RollerÓ and I threw out my shoulder. That happens fairly often, as I have some back problems. Anyway, it hurt for about a week. I held it up in an odd position to stop it from hurting so much all week. At the end of the week, after a couple of visits to my chiropractor, my shoulder stopped hurting. But then, after a couple of pain-free days, my back began to hurt. Long story short, after visits to various doctors, including my chiropractor, no one could really figure out what was wrong or fix it. Eventually, the pain of my back was so bad that I couldnÕt walk, and the only way I could go to school was in a wheelchair. At our school, no one really has any disabilities, unless you count the kids with their arms in slings or are on crutches from sports injuries. So the only person who was ever in a wheelchair or anything similar was me. I was stared at all day by people I knew, vaguely knew, and didnÕt know at all. My friends and classmates were always asking me, WhatÕs wrong?Ó or What happened?Ó in a voice that suggested that perhaps I had a highly contagious and disgusting affliction. I soon discovered that my school was built like a school that kids with disabilities didnÕt go to. The hallways connected to buildings with inch high ledges that were virtually impossible to get over, unless someone was pushing you and they approached the door at a run. I discovered this the hard way after I approached the door and my backpack fell off my lap. It was highly embarrassing to completely stop the flow of traffic through the halls so you could pick up your backpack and back up again to approach the door at a faster speed. To do that, I had to ask someone to hold the door open for me. Then, I had to steer myself into a doorway that was only a couple of inches wider than my chair, so half the time I would run into the sides as well. Then I had to back up another time so that I could hopefully make it through at last. After this humiliating experience of getting to class was over, the classes themselves were pretty bad. I could walk short distances, so I would leave my chair at the door or in front of my desk and walk to my desk and sit down. When I did that, people would give me a look like I was faking the whole thing; like perhaps I was riding in a wheelchair for the perks. I also went on a trip during that time. At the airport, I noticed how much judgment there is of people in wheelchairs. Half the people gave me very pitying looks, and the other half gave me a look like I was a leper and I shouldnÕt be out in public. I remember a certain man who stood across from where I was sitting and stared at me for fifteen minutes while we waited for the plane to board. He gave me a look of such loathing that I almost felt scared. From this experience, I really learned how hard it must be for people with disabilities. I felt like I was being stared at all the time every day. I really empathize with those people who go through these experiences as a part of everyday life. I definitely learned something from my experience, and it is something that I will never forget.
September 1, 2007