Wheelchair Exercise

IMG_1984On January 27th I participated in the Wheelchair Exercise put on my the SIM coordinators. From the lecture on Friday, it was suppose to sensitize me to the obstacles encountered by paraplegics and other users. However, I already know I could never fully understand a life without limbs without living it day in and day out. Instead, my motivation to try the wheelchair for a day stems from my stepmother talking about accessible throughout my adolescence. My stepmother is a physiatrist and her career is helping spinal cord victims manage daily activities of living and thrive overall. Therefore each house we lived in had to have a ramp or elevator installed. As she fussed over these details my curiosity grew about what were all the things I took for granted. Therefore, I accepted the challenge on January 27th in order to become educated on accessibility issues in order to plan my future practice to be as accessible as possible. In the process I encountered some pleasant and unpleasant surprises. Here are some of the issues I faced: being at everyone’s crotch level, having to figure out which elevators went to which floors, my arms sharking from exhaustion, the water fountains being out of reach, the coffee dispenser out of reach (and a humiliating parade of help that followed) and the biggest challenge was imagining what sort of acrobatics were necessary to get from my wheelchair to the toilet without using my legs. I did not even attempt to attend anatomy in a wheelchair because I knew the cadavers were beyond sight nor did I consider wheeling to my house (a 5 minute walk) in the dead of winter. On the bright side, I found the wheelchair brought out the best in people and children were fascinated with it. People were courteous, they made way and offered help before I could ask for it. My faith in humanity was reassured that day even though it was gained through false pretenses. Furthermore, I attained a decent upper body workout and I learned to do a ‘wheelie,’ which I have come to understand is a rite of passage. Using the wheelchair unsheathed pleasant and unpleasant surprises. Building structure and design was the greatest obstacle, it is obvious that Roger Guindon was not built with this population as its main target. In general, wheelchairs are liberating to those who use them, but subtle faults in design remind those who use them they still live in a society that neglects their needs.  I learned that day about some of the invisible obstacles in my immediate surrounding and I hope as a contributing person I can help remedy them in the future.