Thursday, February 21, 2013

Life on Crutches

So, I’m on crutches.  Poor Sam and Will (and countless others) have heard me complain about this to no end.  But now I can write about it!  I started writing and have so much to say that I’m going to make it a series.  


Being on crutches has gotten me thinking a lot about ableism and how fucking hard everything is when you’re not completely able-bodied.  I realize that it’s the shittiest to be like “OHAI DISABLED PEOPLE I NOW UNDERSTAND YOUR PLIGHT AND CAN THEREFORE SPEAK FOR YOU” because I don’t and I can’t.  After all, I don’t know how long I will have a leg brace and be on crutches, but it is nearly impossible that it will be more than 8 weeks.  
(UPDATE: I saw the doctor today and I can start putting weight on it and don’t have to wear the leg brace anymore.  So this will be even shorter than I thought)

Just to be clear: I can not, IN ANY WAY, speak for folks with long-term disabilities.  I shouldn't need personal experiences that of just a fraction of something to be made more aware of it.  But I did. Through my experience, I have realized how incredibly inaccessible lots of places are.  Even when they are supposedly “accessible.”  

Here’s just a few things:

1) “accessible” entrances or ramps or whatever are almost always the least direct line between where you are and where you are trying to go.  For instance, the handicap accessible entrance is on the opposite side of the building where I intern when I walk (crutch?) from from the train station.  And I work in a very large building.  So basically, to get to the handicap entrance I would need to walk around to the other side of a city block.  Or I can go up several flights of stairs.  At least I can do that.  If I were in a wheelchair, I don’t know what I would do.  Did I mention that city block is all uphill?

2) The new green line trains (that’s when I know that I’m at least a little bit of a native bostonian.  I think they must have replaced these about 10 years ago) are considered handicap accessible.  However, when going inbound, to tap your metro card to pay, you need to go up several stairs.  Therefore, I end up not paying for my tolls, because I’m too terrified to try to get up the stairs and pay on a moving train, especially when I’m afraid that I’ll lose my seat.  (I found out the hard way that I am not very good at standing up on the moving train).  So I end up sitting there, feeling like I’m cheating the MBTA and afraid that they’re going to arrest me.  There is an alternative available to me at my train station (although not all t above-ground rain stations, as I discovered a couple of days ago): I can show up at the train station early enough and tap my card to get a one-trip pass printed out for me.  That way, I will have paid before I even get on the train.  But what does that require?  More walking.  And what am I supposed to do if the train arrives just as I’m getting there?  Should I wait for the next one?

3) lots of doors, especially doors that lead outside, are really heavy, and half of the handicap buttons that I have pushed don’t work.  This includes the door to the bathroom at work.

4) People offer me help or say something to acknowledge the shittiness of my situation, and it is always with the best intentions. But it wears me down because I hear it all day.r  I don’t want people to be sorry for me, or constantly be drawing attention to the things that are hard for me.  I already know they’re hard. I find myself changing what I do in order to make people less nervous and less likely to offer help.  For example, I hesitate to take the 15 stairs up from the train station on the way home (a lot of my inconveniences revolve around my commute to work, but that’s mainly because it’s the only time I leave the house) instead of walking an additional 300 meters to go up a long ramp because it makes people nervous. Basically, everywhere I go, people are constantly asking me if I’m okay.  And I get tired of putting on a happy face (we could get into why I feel the need to put on a happy face, but that’s another blog for another day).

5) people don’t offer help when I really need it. For example, I need a damn seat on the train.  But people rarely get up for me.  I generally stand there looking scared and then someone (almost always a woman, I’ve noticed) says “Would you like to sit down?”  And I have to say “YES,” therefore showing that I am dependent on them. I am dependent on other people’s kindness.  And it’s true that there’s a little sticker that says that  there is a seat that  people are supposed to get up for handicapped folks (when ASKED - see problem of ).  But there is almost always a woman with a baby in that seat.  And I’m not about to move a woman with a baby.  Lord forbid, what if we have more than ONE person on the train at a time who has some kind of disability and needs a seat.  The MBTA is not prepared for that level of chaos.  

6) Everyone looks at me.  Everyone.  Just for a second, but they do.

Let me be clear: each of these things, individually, is not that bad.  But all together they add up to what I can best call the ableism version of microaggressions: little things that in isolation are manageable, but cumulative make up so many individual moments of my daily life that I end up feeling exhausted and having no fight left.

If this is even the tiniest TASTE of what people with real, permanent disabilities experience, things need to change.  And I feel like such an asshole -  SUCH. AN. ASSHOLE. - for not realizing that until now. 


  1. Well said and understood! Keep it coming!!!

  2. TL;DR Summary:




    J/K J/K J/K DON'T KILL ME!!!

  3. I thought your Mom was the Queen of Crutches!