One obstacle I have faced is trying to make sure people know I am not flaky, but just late -and not certainly not purposely late! We all encounter obstacles getting places on time, because life happens - traffic jams, accidents, sick kids, etc. - but, most able-bodied people can surpass many obstacles during the day much faster than a disabled individual. Recently on my way to the Houston abilities Expo I encountered a situation that was unique, and worth sharing because it is a perfect scenario of why those of us using a wheelchair have to think much more outside of the box to overcome obstacles.
I was driving and using the GPS app on my cell phone to find my way to the Expo. I was due to be there at 1pm for a meet the author event. I made a turn, and my phone dropped to the floor with a force hard enough that the back of the phone popped off and the battery flew out. In my manual wheelchair I was lower to the ground, so bending down and picking up things from the floor was never an issue. In my power chair, it most certainly is an issue.
At the next stop I reached inside my bag and retrieved a nifty little grabber a friend gave to me. One side of the grabber is sticky, and the other side has a rod with a hook and magnet. I first tried the sticky side to grab my ultrathin battery, but it did not work. I then tried to retrieve the back of the phone, but couldn't get that either. At that point, I it occurred to me that the sticky side probably had residue on it and needed to be wiped off, and because I drive with hand controls I decided to pull over. After pulling over and cleaning the grabber, I still couldn’t manage to pick up the phone.
Knowing it was time to find a new solution, I started looking around my environment and began scouting out the perfect place to ask for help. I continued to drive and found a large gas station with many cars and many drivers at the gas pumps. I looked at each person, and noticed one man in particular. I drove by his car and lowered my window. I explained to him that I had just dropped my phone, and asked if he would mind coming inside the van to pick it up for me. He was as I thought he would be, kind and thoughtful. As I opened the automated sliding door the ramp lowered into place and he came in. He kindly picked up the various pieces of my phone and handed it to me. I thanked him , and then drove off.
It is imperative for us to be independent, but it is just as important for us to be able to ask for help when we need it. As a disabled woman who often drives alone or with her children, I can tell you that if I hadn’t learned over the last fifteen years to become so aware of my surroundings, then I wouldn’t really have gotten very far.