Put your­self in our shoes

The very peo­ple who need waivers are not get­ting them; in­stead, spe­cial priv­i­leges go to those who ob­vi­ously don’t need them.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TASTE -

LIFE in a wheel­chair can be com­pli­cated at times. And for those of you who try to help us along, I just wish you could un­der­stand how com­plex some sit­u­a­tions can turn out to be.

Take last week, for ex­am­ple. I needed a cou­ple of my teeth – which had lost their fill­ings – to be quickly at­tended to.

The den­tal clinic that I fre­quent is wheel­chair- friendly and lo­cated in my favourite shop­ping mall which has toi­lets for the dis­abled and re­served park­ing for the hand­i­capped. Every­thing looks good, right? Wrong!

This is where the com­pli­ca­tions came in. A re­cent ill­ness had made my arms weak. This be­came a big prob­lem when­ever I had to trans­fer my­self from the wheel­chair to the bed, toi­let, and es­pe­cially my car. I had no one to de­pend on ex­cept my best able- bod­ied buddy, Andrew Martin. Thank­fully, he agreed to take some time off work to as­sist me. But there were more de­tails to look into. I couldn’t just let him drive me there in his car and pick me up later. That would have been the eas­i­est thing to do for most peo­ple. How­ever, the prob­lem was that I didn’t have the strength in my right arm to get into his car from the pas­sen­ger side.

It was eas­ier for me to get in on the driver’s side. This was be­cause I was used to get­ting into my own car from the driver’s side when­ever I drove. I could take ad­van­tage of a cou­ple of spe­cial gad­gets fit­ted in my car. I could hold on to them for bal­ance and haul my­self into the ve­hi­cle – with Andrew’s phys­i­cal sup­port.

So it made more sense for me to drive to the mall in my own car to avoid a po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous trans­fer. I also de­cided NOT to take my wheel­chair with me so that I need not bur­den Andrew. Like me, Andrew is also get­ting on in years, and he may be strug­gling to take the wheel­chair in and out of the ve­hi­cle.

For­tu­nately, the mall pro­vides dis­abled cus­tomers with wheelchairs and scoot­ers for free. This is most laud­able of the management.

Just to make sure, I booked their ser­vices one day in ad­vance. I called them up to let them know my es­ti­mated time of ar­rival, and the pick- up point. The mall pro­vides all these won­der­ful ser­vices for which I am most grate­ful.

How­ever, what dis­ap­pointed me the other day was this: as I was strug­gling to get out of my car with Andrew’s help, a se­cu­rity guard came run­ning to­wards us.

In­stead of of­fer­ing an ex­tra hand, all he re­ally wanted to do was to tell me that I couldn’t park at that par­tic­u­lar spot. “This is strictly re­served for VIPs,” he said. As Andrew and I were strug­gling to catch our breath, he told me that I had to move the car away im­me­di­ately and go to the base­ment park­ing re­served for dis­abled driv­ers.

He didn’t give me a chance to ex­plain that I was not go­ing to park right there. Andrew was go­ing to take my car back home and come back a few hours later to pick me up. ( Andrew needed to pick up his car which was parked in my house, and re­turn to work.)

To rub salt into the wound, I saw sev­eral posh cars parked there with one or two driv­ers wait­ing in­side. Not only that, it was rather hurt­ful to note that they didn’t have to pay for park­ing.

Here is a sit­u­a­tion where the rich do not have to pay a sen but the dis­abled are forced to pay for their spe­cial park­ing bays. It se­ri­ously makes me won­der what kind of val­ues we are in­cul­cat­ing in our so­ci­ety these days.

The peo­ple who need such waivers are not get­ting them. Those who clearly don’t need waivers are get­ting more than their fair share of priv­i­leges.

The trip to the mall, I’m happy to say, didn’t turn out to be a com­plete dis­as­ter.

The hair­dresser who cut my hair ( at RM12 per cut) rushed out to help me get my wheel­chair onto her el­e­vated plat­form. I didn’t have to ask her for help.

And at the den­tist’s, I didn’t have to strug­gle to trans­fer to the den­tal chair. The den­tist kindly at­tended to me in my wheel­chair. He un­der­stands life is not easy for the dis­abled.

So friends, the next time you see some­one in a wheel­chair, just re­mem­ber that things may not be as easy as they seem.

Ac­cess to pub­lic trans­porta­tion can help the dis­abled to lead pretty in­de­pen­dent lives. — Filepic

star2@ thes­tar. com. my An­thony Thanasayan

wheel power

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