This blog contains 1000 posts. Posting (in Blogger) has become unwieldy.
Your blogista has ceased adding new posts. My still-active links are here.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The chair


Beloved is still rubbing the area on the back of her head that she says "feels like a crew cut" -- though I can't see it through that luxuriant dark brown --now shot with silver -- pony tail she's always had. But now it was my turn to have surgery again.

Mine was a chelectomy -- removal of a bone spur -- intended to make both my feet continue to fit the same shoe size and prevent the continuation of a limp that was threatening to cut short my hiking career.

There's not too much to tell of this visit to Big Hospital, which was rather nice as that place goes -- but, hey! My wrist ribbon identified me as female for the first time there. So that was something, anyway.

Once home, I practiced mucking about the house in a wheelchair which we had borrowed from the Meeting House -- then became violently ill, as usual, from after-effects of the anaesthesia -- then, next day, played with the wheelchair some more.

What a revelation! I thought I had been good at spotting things that would be issues for people in chairs, perhaps because my interest in ADA-related issues, as a somewhat severely hearing-impaired person, makes me take notice of poorly designed buildings: bad acoustics, no ramp....

There was a lot I didn't know.

Chairs are marvels of ergonomic design, like bicycles, but that only takes you so far. There are presupposed, if you are going to be self-sufficient, a lot of conditions: food is within reach, drink is within reach, toilets are within reach, furniture not blocking your way, doors closable behind you, doorways wide enough, hallways with turning radius, light switches within reach, essentials not stored on shelves out of reach or in cabinets with doors that cannot be opened with the chair close by. I took to carrying a pair of tongs in order to reach things I was accustomed to getting at while standing.

Then there was the matter of keeping the fire going. I could do this with the tongs -- but only with the lighter chunks of fir -- and when I ran out, there would be no more till Beloved got home from work. There are no ramps between me and the woodshed.

I also found it difficult to deal with minor housekeeping. Balancing laundry on my knees, I could carry about as much laundry across the house in three long trips as I might otherwise in one short one. The refrigerator become much more difficult and interesting to work with, as did such a simple act as carrying a glass of juice to the dining room table.

Just to get a mug of tea a while ago, I needed to roll to the dining room, pick up the tongs from the wood box, hang them on my brake handle, roll around through the living room to the kitchen, ducking under the corner of the chopping table, sidle up to the sink countertop, stretch with the tongs for the cup I wanted, put the cup in my lap, back up, turn around, roll forward, reach with it to the shelf above the stove (I know, bad place) where the teas live, choose a box and fish out a teabag, drop it in the cup, back up, wheel around, roll forward, sidle up to the sink, fill the cup, set it on the counter towards the pantry room, roll back, straighten out, roll forward, grab the cup and move it to the counter in the pantry room, lean back in the chair, push over the hump into the pantry room, which has a higher floor, roll forward, open the door of the zapper, roll back, put the cup in, roll forward, set for 77 seconds, wait, open the door, put the cup on the counter behind my shoulder, close the zapper door, roll back, pick up the cup, and drink the tea.

I drank the tea right there by the zapper because I couldn't navigate back to the dining room without both hands on the wheels or carrying hot tea balanced in my lap.

Another interesting discovery is that the chair will do some things that you want it to only if you develop a kind of body english remarkably akin to the movements of people we think of as having chair-associated diseases or conditions. In other words, the chair itself may be creating exaggerated psychological distance between an "us" (the "abled") and a "them" (the wheelchair-bound, those most easily identified as the "disabled").

My own home was like a world designed as if there were no people in wheelchairs.

I'm expecting to be back on my feet within two weeks. Still! What an eye-opener. I'm ashamed of myself for not having known more about this.

:::

The chair got me to thinking about the situation with LGBT persons and families. The parallels are rich and obvious. The uncomprehending and hostile world, for us, is like a courthouse without a ramp, with no accessible restrooms or drinking fountains, no doorknobs, no self-opening doors, and no "disabled parking" outside. You can talk about "special rights" till you are blue, but for the chair-bound, if they can't get to the courtroom, they haven't got equal rights.

When you hold partnership rights, housing rights, fair employment rights, and public accommodation rights out of the reach of people born different, the only one with "special rights" is you.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted by the 104th Congress and signed by George H. W. Bush. It found that:
(1) some 43,000,000 Americans have one or more physical or mental disabilities, and this number is increasing as the population as a whole is growing older;

(2) historically, society has tended to isolate and segregate individuals with disabilities, and, despite some improvements, such forms of discrimination against individuals with disabilities continue to be a serious and pervasive social problem;

(3) discrimination against individuals with disabilities persists in such critical areas as employment, housing, public accommodations, education, transportation, communication, recreation, institutionalization, health services, voting, and access to public services;

(4) unlike individuals who have experienced discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, religion, or age, individuals who have experienced discrimination on the basis of disability have often had no legal recourse to redress such discrimination;

(5) individuals with disabilities continually encounter various forms of discrimination, including outright intentional exclusion, the discriminatory effects of architectural, transportation, and communication barriers, overprotective rules and policies, failure to make modifications to existing facilities and practices, exclusionary qualification standards and criteria, segregation, and relegation to lesser services, programs, activities, benefits, jobs, or other opportunities;

(6) census data, national polls, and other studies have documented that people with disabilities, as a group, occupy an inferior status in our society, and are severely disadvantaged socially, vocationally, economically, and educationally;

(7) individuals with disabilities are a discrete and insular minority who have been faced with restrictions and limitations, subjected to a history of purposeful unequal treatment, and relegated to a position of political powerlessness in our society, based on characteristics that are beyond the control of such individuals and resulting from stereotypic assumptions not truly indicative of the individual ability of such individuals to participate in, and contribute to, society;

(8) the Nations [sic] proper goals regarding individuals with disabilities are to assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for such individuals; and

(9) the continuing existence of unfair and unnecessary discrimination and prejudice denies people with disabilities the opportunity to compete on an equal basis and to pursue those opportunities for which our free society is justifiably famous, and costs the United States billions of dollars in unnecessary expenses resulting from dependency and nonproductivity.
If you substitute Transsexual for 'People with disabilities' in the foregoing, there is a pretty close match for most of the socially-driven disadvantages, as well as for the costs to society (scaled down for numbers) of the discrimination. Yet the Act goes on to say, under "Certain Conditions:"
Under this Act, the term disability shall not include

(1) transvestism, transsexualism, pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments, or other sexual behavior disorders;

(2) compulsive gambling, kleptomania, or pyromania; or

(3) psychoactive substance use disorders resulting from current illegal use of drugs.
So transpeople are classed with pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, compulsive gambling, kleptomania, pyromania, and drug use by Federal law. (!!)

The saving grace could be, though, "gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments." Here they are clearly trying to avoid messing with intersexuals. Thank you, but the line you've drawn, Auntie Sam, may not be in real sand.

This is why science (not bogus science, just science: a study discussed here has since been replicated) needs to be done in the area of gender identity disorder. Remember: all social psychology is biology. Hopefully, more about this later.

So that accommodations that make economic sense and promote justice for all can be part of the law of the land.

risa b

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails