Friday, December 30, 2005

Wheelchairs and the Ambulatory

When we go out together and a lot of walking is involved, we try to get Cathy a wheelchair if possible. For example, Ikea has wheelchairs availale at the entrance. And, when we went to Disneyland on Christmas, Cathy was in a wheelchair for the duration. I was pushing her chair around, and having a wheelchair essentially gave us an automatic FastPass to most rides. So, a nice benefit of the tiring work of a wheelchair is the hours it shaves off the lines.

Having a wheelchair means yelling, "excuse me!" a lot. Among other things, Cathy discovered why so many people use wheelchair blankets: her legs got cold really quickly. She also found that it was difficult to see (this standing chair would be cool) sitting so far below crowds. I imagine Cathy got tired of gazing at the gaggles of glutei.

Since I was behind Cathy a lot, I got to observer people who looked at her. It is interesting... Those who are ambulatory seemed to fall into two basic categories: those who ignored Cathy and those who tried not to stare. The ones who ignored Cathy essentially treated her like they would anyone else, as someone to navigate around. It is the ones who tried not to stare that I found interesting and at times entertaining.

Perhaps because Cathy looks relatively healthy, she stuck out among those who were in other wheelchairs. Most of the people we saw on chairs were either sickly or very heavy. Very few people in chairs looked healthy except for a cast on a foot or something. There were a couple other people that I wondered about, since they had no visible disability, like Cathy.

For whatever reason, people stared, and the women especially tried not to stare. Most would look away guitily when they saw me notice (these were the amusing ones). Since I was having a good time, I was smiling a good portion of the time, so I don't think people would have thought I was offended. But I did find the observations interesting.

Oh, by the way, people who interacted with Cathy directly were either trying hard to address her needs without singling her out (that's good) or extremely deferential ("OMG! I'm sorry, I didn't see you there!") and rather amusing to watch as they practically fell over themselves trying to make way or whatever.

There was this woman at Ikea that was particularly funny. Cathy & I were looking at sheets for her trip North, and her chair was in my way. A couple happened to be standing behind me, so I couldn't go around Cathy. I said to Cathy, "I'm just gonna move you over here." and the woman behind me was like , "Oh, please, it's ok! She's fine where she is!"

I had to keep a straight face in order to reply to this flustered woman (who apparently thought I was moving Cathy out of her way like a piece of furniture), "Well, she's in my way!" Cathy was kind and waited until the couple was gone to laugh. :-)

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