Voluntarily Handicapped

Today was my first day back at work since surgery. Of course, this led to many questions regarding why I was hobbling around in a walking boot. As last week was Spring Break, a lot of people thought I had broken something while skiing. I’m not sure what this says about their confidence in my coordination and balance (I AM a dance teacher) but that’s beside the point.

As more people inquired, I found myself using the phrase, “voluntarily handicapped.” As in, I didn’t have an accident, I chose to not have full function of one of my feet for 2-3 weeks. Throughout the last ten days, I’ve joked a bit about how I could win a flamingo competition because I’ve gotten so good at standing on one leg and I’ve used the hashtag “crippledlife” when posting pictures or status updates that have to do with my surgery but my reaction to answering people’s questions today really made me think about those that don’t have a choice in their physical handicap.

I’ve never been insensitive to those who are less physically fortunate than I, nor have I ever felt I’ve taken unfair advantage of services that are specifically for the physically handicapped, but it really does give you a different perspective when you need to utilize those commodities for every day life.

For instance, I never thought about how when grocery stores set out their displays and throughout the aisles of the store, that they have to make sure each pathway is wide enough for the motorized shopping carts. Also, now that I have a handicapped placard for my car, I’ve noticed how few handicapped parking spaces there really are in large shopping strips. I used to think there were two or three spaces reserved in front of every storefront, but that is definitely not the case.

I think my most frustrating experience came while at the Houston Rodeo this past Saturday. It was a record-breaking attendance day with over 185,000 attendees and at least 75,000 concert attendees. Our tickets were in section 651, meaning it would be a long haul to use the ramp to get up to our section in the stadium, but they have an escalator, so I thought it would be easy. I was so wrong. Not only was there no organization method for separating people in line for the escalator versus those taking the ramp, but the nrg employees weren’t even trying to be of assistance. It was almost like a stampede, with people confused, frustrated and over-heated. And believe me, over half the people trying to reach the escalator were plenty physically capable of taking the ramp. They were only taking the escalator out of laziness. I ended up having to walk up the ramp to the next level just so I could get on the escalator to ride the rest of the way up.

In all honesty, if that’s the worst story I have to tell, things aren’t really that bad. I am very lucky in that the only thing wrong with me right now is that I can’t fully put weight on my right foot without the assistance of a walking boot. I’m young (enough), in shape, and only take regular medication for thyroid disease. In a few weeks, I won’t need to use the motorized shopping cart, park in a handicapped space or even use an escalator, but many people do not have that choice. It’s very humbling to be on the flip-side, take in a new perspective and remember not to take for granted the abilities God has bestowed.

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