Wednesday, June 18, 2008

TRAVELING IN THE WHEELCHAIR OF LIFE – Part 4: Handicapped, Disabled or Differently-abled? - June 14, 2008

In this day and age of politically correct language, I’m thoroughly confused on when to use certain terms, lest I cause offense. When is it proper to refer to someone, such as myself, as handicapped, disabled or differently-abled?

When it comes to sports, I’m definitely handicapped—a congenital defect encoded in my genes. My instinctive reflex to dodge or duck when a ball flies my way, desperately weak ankles and poor eye-hand coordination make me likely to be last picked in all but the most domestic activities. Challenge me to a bed-making race, and I’ll win blue ribbons for speed and neatness. Challenge me to cleaning a bathroom and…well, you’ll win that one.

I am currently disabled due to knee surgery and a lengthy healing process requiring that I not put weight on my left leg. I get by with the use of a wheelchair, walker, and hopping-about on my right leg. The latter requires modest athletic ability, which as I pointed out earlier, I am lacking. Your prayers for my safety are coveted.

And I am differently-abled in ways too numerous to list. While you may be able to slam a baseball over the fence, I am able to slam computer keys and produce words and thoughts that are equally a hit in my field of play. I am able to listen by the hour (which comes in handy on my job as a therapist) while you may be a non-stop gabber. Don’t ask me to do any form of math and I’ll not ask you to define or spell esclandre, prosopopoeia or guerdon. (Cheer up; I don’t even know what they mean—I’m just messing with you.) We’re just differently-abled, you and I.

Recently I decided to negotiate the grocery store in one of those nifty motorized carts that are now provided for the handicapped, disabled, and/or differently-abled individual. You may not have ever noticed, but a grocery store is an obstacle course in disguise. All those produce, baked goods and soda pop displays, set at angles to keep the physically-abled from racing through the store, are a nightmare for those of us on wheels.

The scariest part for me, however, was backing my buggy up when I failed to stop in time to collect the particular cookies or laundry detergent I was after. Putting my vehicle into reverse set off an obnoxious alarm, not unlike that installed on road construction equipment. I’m not noted for my vehicular backing ability, so I recommend you clear the aisle, street or driveway if you see and hear me operating any mode of transportation in reverse.

The most difficult aspect of grocery shopping, however, was getting into the freezer cases for my weekly supply of Lean Cuisine and Skinny Cow Ice Cream Bars. The freezer doors at my store open outward rather than sliding aside. If you want to feel differently-abled, I invite you to attempt to line up a mobile cart, just so, open the door and lean in for your item.

I do wish to thank all the kind people who helped me retrieve the Wheat Chex and other items stowed on the top shelves. My thanks, also, to those who did not laugh at me and those who pretended to nonchalantly get out of my way (I know you were scared to death and wanted to run for your life!) There are a lot of kind-hearted, gracious and tolerant people eager to be of assistance.

But I am truly baffled by those who were oblivious to this first-time mobile grocery cart driver, who wasn’t quite sure what she was doing. For future reference, I suggest that you look both ways from now on when you cross a grocery aisle to grab an item, watch for out-of-control drivers at all corners, and for goodness sake, YIELD to anyone on wheels.

"We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.”
Romans 12:6

FYI: Esclandre, prosopopoeia, and guerdon were the final three words in the National Spelling Bee, held on May 30, 2008.

No comments: