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.
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