Why it sucks to be disabled.

Short version: Because it’s incredibly difficult to do simple things “normal” people take for granted.

Long version: Last night Joel and I went out to dinner.

We went to a new (it’s new to me, anyway) BBQ joint in Salem. I was happy when I saw an empty handicapped spot right in front by the door, and a ramp leading up to the door. That happiness was short-lived, however, when those turned out to be the extent of the handicapped accessibility.

First off, to get to the ramp, we had to get the wheelchair up onto a sidewalk without a curb-cut. Hello!! The wheelchair ramp doesn’t do much good if you can’t get to it! Oh well, the sidewalk wasn’t that far off the ground, so Joel was able to hoist me and the wheelchair up onto it.

And at the top of the ramp was a door that swung out toward us. There’s an art to pulling a door open and holding it open while getting a wheelchair through it. And we’ll learn it one of these days.

The food portion of the experience was fine. Yum yum, barbecue! Yum yum, hushpuppies! Yum yum… did I mention I’d had barbecue and hushpuppies for lunch, too? One of my co-workers sent her husband out to fetch us all some BBQ for lunch. That’s how I found out about this place. And I enjoyed the food so much, I wanted to share with Joel. Unfortunately, my system suddenly decided it had reached its BBQ limit and I needed to make a run for the restroom.

I typically try to avoid using public restrooms because, even if they’re modified for the handicapped, they’re often still difficult to use. If my arms weren’t as weak as my legs, I wouldn’t have so much trouble, but since my arms and legs are equally incapacitated, it’s hard for me to use handrails to transfer myself to and from the toilet. So even under ideal circumstances, going to the restroom is a pain. I’d rather wait until I’m home again and not have to deal with strange bathrooms at all. Unfortunately, at that time, this was not an option.

So off we went to the restroom. It was difficult getting there because the way was rather cluttered. This is a fairly small establishment. The walkways were very narrow with a couple sharp corners that barely accommodated the wheelchair. But I understand if that can’t be helped. What blew my mind was the restroom itself.

It had probably the tiniest toilet in the world. It was a baby toilet! Itsy bitsy, teeny weeny potty. Low to the ground, with the tiniest seat in the universe. And not a single handrail in sight. Nothing to hold on to to steady myself as I tried to sit down. Nothing to slow my descent as my legs gave out and I entered freefall. Oh God. Splat! I went on the toilet seat. Splat! went poop everywhere! How humiliating :o How beyond humiliating. How shameful.

So I called Joel in and he helped me to my feet. I cleaned up in the sink using those rough cheap brown paper towels. Fortunately, nothing got on my clothes. Thank goodness for small favors. But then came the hardest part of all: going to an employee and telling him I’d had a wee bit of an accident in the ladies’ room. Again, how humiliating :o :o I don’t think I’ve ever blushed so hard. It’s a wonder my heart didn’t give out beating, considering every drop of blood in my body was in my face. I kept telling myself that this was not only a restaurant, but also a bar, so surely they’ve seen as bad, if not worse, messes in the bathroom before. At least I didn’t finger-paint on the walls with it! But that’s small, small consolation. We paid the bill and got the hell out of there.

All this pain and embarrassment and botheration just to have a meal out. It’s not even worth it. Why does it have to be this way? No, I don’t think the whole world owes me, just because I was born a cripple (actually, I do, but this is beside the point). Do only people in wheelchairs appreciate curb-cuts and wide walkways? Do only people with weak legs like tall or even normal height toilets? (I’ve used the toilets in friends’ and relatives’ homes, OK? This toilet was tiny. It was a novelty toilet, not intended for actual bathroom use, I’m sure of it.) I totally believe that if you make things easier for the disabled to use them, you make them easier for everyone to use them.

I get so mad when I read articles like Readers’ Digest used to run in their “That’s Outrageous!” column about how the ADA was putting the small business owners out of business with their “outrageous” demands for ramps, widened doorways, etc. “Oh, those pushy disabled people! Why, disabled people never even go to this restaurant! Why must we accommodate them?!?!” :mad:

It’s evenings like these that make me seriously consider becoming a shut-in. Restaurant owners and employees everywhere, especially those that clean the bathrooms, would probably thank me. :frowning:

Gr8Kat, you’ve just made me feel very grateful to be me. I will try to never take for granted my working–albeit clumsy–legs ever again.

You should send a copy of your post to the management of this establishment. If they have a heart, they’ll do something about the curb and the stupid toliet.

Unfortunately, a lot of smaller businesses do the minimum, just so they can be in compliance with building codes. “See, we do so do have ‘accommodations’ for the disabled.” Never mind the fact that whatever “accommodations” they do have don’t really do any good.

I wonder if the owners of these establishments realize that as the population ages, more people are going to need these accommodations, which means that a fairly significant number of people aren’t going to be able to patronize some businesses because they physically can’t get in there. Oh, well. They decided to be cheap now, but it’s going to cost them later.

If you really feel cranky about this, you can contact your local disabled-rights group and let them know about the, ah, wonderful setup that this restaurant has, and carbon-copy the restaurant’s management.


They probably put in a small toilet to meet clearance requirements in a small space or esthetic requirements. It was pretty short sighted though per the problems you had.
Big Help for Small Bathrooms
Scaled-down fixtures can mean the difference between comfort and chaos in a tiny bathroom.


I hear you. Walking around with a cane tends to get me stared at for some reason. I also have had people push their way in front of me, or demand that I get out of their way.

I have problems with bathrooms as well. Not enough are large enough or have the handrails I need for support.

I feel for ya, babe.

A great story, one that will make me actually pay attention to the needs of others that have difficulties doing things I can do. I can’t say as I have ever read a story or seen a movie that had a viewpoint so close as your rant, and I have to thank you for the POV.
I cannot change what is, but I can say that you have brought compassion into my heart and changed it more than you can think. I cried at this. Seriously. You meant it as a rant, I found inspiration and bittersweet understanding. Thank you.

Oh, since this is the pit: Stupid ass resturaunt.

Yes, but apparently this place didn’t even meet the minimum standards. Handrails around at least one toilet and ample room for a wheelchair to manuver are minimum standards, and if they had been met Gr8Kat wouldn’t have needed this rant.

I think that everyone appreciates wide walkways, regardless of size or ability. As a young mother, I certainly appreciated curb-cuts when I was pushing a stroller!

I don’t think that you were unreasonable in your expectations. Indeed, I think that you were courteous in informing the staff that the ladies’ room needed attention after you left. I’m sorry that this spoiled your dining experience, and I do think it was the fault of the restaurant’s designer.

My mother is finding out about this the hard way – she had surgery on her foot, and is using a wheelchair a lot when she’s out of the house. I got griped at for about ten minutes about the supposedly accessible school my brother will be attending (they went up there for a couple of days for orientation and pre-registration). I’ve used a scooter a few times and have run into the same problems; it’s hard to get around a convention that spans two hotels when to cross the street you have to go through the parking garage!

I think people who gripe about accomodations should be forced to spend a week or two using a chair. They just might change their minds.

I am so hurt for you, Gr8, that I have tears literally burning in my eyes. I’m so very sorry you had to deal with humiliation of that nature. It’s really awful and I’m mortified for you and what you went through.

And it’s not only people who use wheelchairs who have trouble- what about an elderly person? Someone who had back or knee surgery? (Who can’t bend well or needs a boost up) They deserve to have a place where they can comfortably do the most basic of human functions.


As an ex-cane walker, I can echo the sentiment that a lot of people simply don’t seem to understand what it means to have, for example, difficulty walking. I learned a lot walking with a cane during my teenage years (in high school some guys even pointed at my cane and laughed in my face).

The surgery that helped me live without the cane also put me in a wheelchair for a couple of weeks, with one leg nearly straight out in front of me. Only twice did I try to go out with my friends in this condition, and the worst was going to a local bookstore, let’s call them “Prawns & Bubbles”. Aha, I thought at first, nice wide aisles! Nice open design! I can browse at my leisure, and my friends can get books down for me that I can’t reach!

Then I realized that the nice wide aisles were filled with sale tables and jutting displays, and it felt like I was playing Tetris trying to manoeuver around without knocking anything over. Now, I used to work at a similiar bookstore, and I can understand the need for such displays, but they need to exercise some restraint with how far out these things stick, and how big their sale tables are.

And of course, there’s always the one wiseass who comments on how he wishes he could sit down all day like that. How comfy that wheelchair looks! I felt like pulling the metal rods out of my knee immobilizer and granting his wish by way of a sound clubbing.

Oh my God- don’t repeat things like this:

in front of me, as it makes my blood boil and spurt right out of my eyeballs.

Must. Control. Fist. Of. Rage.


Gr8Kat: our university built us a new Arts building. We have new students who are wheelchair bound, so the university was very proud to tell us that the building would be fully accessible. Turns out that initially, the automatic push-button doors were on the side of the building with four sunk staircases and no ramp.

They fixed that… but…

They built us fully accessible washrooms - really nice! State of the art. But the hallway doors to access them only open outwards, with really awkward handles that you need to pull up, then out towards yourself. Brilliant.


My disabled friends were furious. I work with disabled kids and am sensitive to the needs… oh the things we see out there…


A small but minor pet peeve.

My husband is disabled. Yes, he walks, but with a pronounced limp and very slowly and without a great deal of balance. This is obvious to anyone with near-normal vision (heck, even blind folks can pick up the uneveness of his stride in many situations).

We go to a restaurant. The waitstaff offers to seat us.


Off goes said waitstaff at half the speed of light, even after we mention that the husband does not walk fast. At all. Is not able to walk fast. Really.

Of course, they lose us in the larger restaurants. Usually we stop wherever we are and wait patiently for the person to realize that yes, we meant it about walking slow and for them to come back and find us.

On one or two occassions (Red Lobster seemed to be the worst) the waitstaff would zoom off, come back and find us, zoom off again, come back and find us, zoom off again…

Some of the restaurants we go to often will tell us which seat is available and let us go there at my husband’s pace, or else ask which of the available seating he’d prefer (because some days stairs are easier for him than others). Now that’s civilized.

One of my favorite places to go is Uwajimaya, an Asian grocery store in Beaverton. It’s great because besides a huge grocery section, there’s a huge import section with lots of toys, cookware, artsy type stuff, Hello Kitty galore, plus a bookstore and a Japanese restaurant. But it’s so crowded. I feel like a bull in a China shop (ugh, just noticed that on re-read–no pun was intended, but that expression has never been more accurate) when my husband tries to push me around display tables stacked with porcelain bowls and tea sets and statuary, etc., all terribly lovely and terribly fragile. Oh geez, don’t knock over the display of chopsticks or we’ll be here all day playing the world’s largest game of Pick Up Sticks! I used to be able to spend all day there browsing. Now when I go I feel like shouting, “Let’s grab the Korean Honey Twists, a maneki neko, and some Hello Kitty stickers and get the hell out!”

I haven’t been “real” grocery shopping in months. If I just need one or two small things, or it’s someone’s birthday and I want to pick out a card or present myself, I’ll go. I can balance a basket on my lap or use one of the store’s chairs with the built in basket. But if we’re out of everything, I make a list and send Joel alone. My presence is just a hindrance. It gets done faster and easier when I’m not there.

Oh, Dragonblink, the wisecrackers. It doesn’t stop. People are always asking if they can hitch a ride. People are always saying I’m lucky because I can sit down all day. Geez, this doesn’t make me feel better! I’d happily trade it in to be able to stand and walk all day on my own two legs!

And then there are the people who have to comment when I do walk. I have ankle-foot orthotics and a cane, but I don’t walk very much if I can help it, not only because I’m so unsteady on my feet these days, but because I get winded very easily too (see my thread about the BiPap machine–the diaphragm is working about as well as the arms and legs). So some people who work in the same office building as me are surprised if they do see me standing or walking and they have to comment on it. Cooing about how well I am walking is not encouragement, it’s degrading. I’m not a freaking baby taking my first steps, I’m a freaking old person taking my last, so please avert your eyes and keep your mouth shut.

I did learn a fun way to amuse myself recently. I think it was when Joel and I went to see Blade II. Or Queen of the Damned. One of those sucky (ha!) vampire movies. He parked me outside the men’s room while he took care of business. I happened to be situated near a post. Children stare at me. They always stare at me (or they do the complete opposite and never even see me until they’re practically in my lap). So I had to laugh evilly every time some little pisher was so intent on staring at me that he totally didn’t see where he was going and ran into that damn post. My life isn’t totally without joy :stuck_out_tongue:

One of my problems is that I have two wheelchairs, a motorized for work and a manual for home and out and about. If I had a van, I could bring the motorized chair home and use it for going to the store and stuff. That might help in some situations because I think the motorized chair is more maneuverable, but it wouldn’t help in some situations (tiny toilet) and would definitely be a hindrance in others (it’s way heavy, we never could have gotten it on to the sidewalk without a curb-cut).

I had to accept at an early age that some things were going to be off-limits. Join the Army? Nope. Become a police officer? Uh-uh. Play any kind of sport ever? Not gonna happen. But go out to dinner? Shopping? Why do those things have to be on the list, too?

Broomstick, I know exactly what you mean! You’d think a guy pushing a wheelchair would be a clue to take it a little slower, too, but no! Vroooooom, off they go, while you try to maneuver between loaded down waitstaff, chairs sitting too far out into the aisle, children who never look where they’re going or are too busy staring at you to see where they’re going, purses, legs, elbows, oh my! Look, I think that’s her blonde pony tail on the other side of the room! Damn, wrong blonde pony tail!

To some degree, it depends on local building codes. There are exceptions based on the size of the facilities, as well.

This pisses me off royally, too. My mother is wheelchair-bound in public places and she’s not always strong enough to wheel herself around, despite the fact that she has a light-weight chair. So, she can walk as far as the entrance to the grocery store (from the handicapped parking, about fifty feet) to get one of their motorized carts. People have made snide remarks, both to her face and behind her back, because they’ve seen her walking into the store.

In any case, I’m getting a little taste of what it’s like to have mobility problems. Being pregnant (and I’m not saying it’s a disability or that it’s in even the same class), I’ve had to learn to maneuver a large belly and deal with the fact that my center of gravity is way off. I’ve had to ask for help in getting stuff off of top and bottom shelves (my belly gets in the way of the high stuff, and I can’t safely bend over because of the center-of-gravity thing.) There are restaurants where I literally can’t fit in the booths. And my “mommy-to-be” parking space is usually filled by a non-pregnant person, so more often than not, I’ve got to walk across hot asphalt with a stiff back and sore hips.


Accessibility standards are set by the ADA, The Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal law. Local codes may add to it but the ADA sets the minimum.

Having a neurological handicap stinks too.

My handicap is invisible, but there
are things I have a beanhatch of a time
with, but can’t understand or relate to.

And the Mr. Normals put me down for it
because I am different.

O well, scruff 'em, I guess you gotta sift thru a pile of
poopies to find the diamonds in the miserable

Gr8Kat, you have both my sympathy and respect.
As I have alluded to in various past posts, my wife is not in the best of health. Several years after being diagnosed with type II diabetes, she developed a foot infection which in less than six hours spread to the point where they had to amputate the toes of her left foot. Six months later, she went back to her summer job at Great America, but needed a wheelchair to get around because she still wasn’t too steady on her feet. However, due to a congenital weakness in her right arm she has difficulty using a regular wheelchair (she can’t propel herself straight ahead and has to “walk” the wheelchair). GA was very accomodating, but once one of her teenaged co-workers made some snide comment about her not having to use the employee’s entrance; Mrs L took off her orthopedic shoe and showed the little b* what was left of her foot and asked if she wanted to trade.
During the course of that summer, she started having vision problems, which turned out to be cataracts. The normally routine corrective surgery was complicated by diabetic retinopathy, and over the next five years her vision has deteriorated to the point where she is now legally blind.
At the same time, she developed diabetic neuropathy in her legs which, combined with her worsening arthritis has left her unable to walk more than twenty feet.
Fortunately, her doctor managed to browbeat our insurance company into paying for a motorized scooter, which has given her some mobility. Of course, with her vision she still needs assistance navigating, so she’s not as independent as she’d like to be. Particularly since she was the driver in the family; I don’t drive, so we now have a van with handicapped plates (gotten while her eyesight still permitted her to drive in daytime) but are dependent on friends if we need to drive anywhere.

The change in her life over the last five years has left me with a profound gratitude for my own health, and a respect for her courage that I don’t express nearly enough. All the things she used to take for granted are now denied to her. And despite this, she’s determined try to lead as normal a life as possible. We go to Vegas once a year (thank you, SouthWest Airlines!) and we’re looking into taking a trip to Ireland, where her father was born, hopefully while she still has enough eyesight to enjoy the scenery.

I apologize for hijacking this thread; I don’t mean to sound like I’m trying to belittle anybody else’s problems (which is how this reads to me now), but once I started I just couldn’t stop.

Oh, and whiterabbit, Elenfair and the rest; we’ve often said that everyone should have to spend one week duct-taped into a wheelchair so they can see what it’s like to try and cope with what is considered “reasonable accomodations” and “handicapped accessible”. :eek: