This New Year’s Eve I became an aunt. I was so happy for my brother and sister-in-law because I knew how much they’ve been wanting this child.
But on the other hand, I couldn’t help but think about the logistics of a whole new set of wheels in the car or roaming around the inaccessible home. My brother and sister-in-law’s home is not wheelchair accessible. Not only do someone have to lift my wheelchair in and out of the car every time I am visiting them, but I also require two people to lift me up the back-porch steps. I couldn’t help but realize that family gatherings are going to get that much more complicated, at least for a few years. My parents are getting older, and they won’t always be able to lift me and/or my wheelchair in and out of inaccessible houses and other inaccessible places.
Since I flew out before my niece was born, I have yet to see her. I would love to visit her and see her cute little face in person. But I cannot, because I don’t want to be a burden to my brother and sister-in-law. I know they are already so sleep deprived and busy with my little niece to lift me in and out of their house.
If only this society could be constructed for more than just walking people, life would be so much easier. Growing up, adaptive driving lessons were so faraway to get to and I had to really intentionally fight for it if I wanted something that gave me freedom and independence. I had to demonstrate “passion” for it instead of just an interest like every other kid I knew in order to get driving lessons. Also, most houses are made for walking people. My brother and sister-in-law said they did think about my wheelchair and disability before purchasing their home, but I guess that was the best they could find. I’m not surprised since most homes are not wheelchair accessible.
Because of all of this inaccessibility, I don’t visit them as often as I would like. I probably will not get to spend as much time with my cute niece as I’d like. When society is constructed to fit only one way of living, catering only to walking people, there are millions of people like myself who do not get to enjoy the full benefit of being with family and cannot help but feel that they’re a burden to society. Mine is just one story. This is just the story of one family. My family.
I hope by wheeling out of my comfort zone through sharing my view, by being vulnerable with my experience, I will help bring awareness to the numerous inaccessible places around us; and the strain and pain that it causes in relationships whether that’d be family relations or friendships.
By sharing my vantage point, I hope I’ve made this society a more accessible place for myself and for other wheelchair users like me who want to be a kick-ass aunt, a burden-free daughter, and a helpful and supportive sister.