Have sympathy: Winter is tougher for people with disabilities
Look. I’m trying my best to embrace this god-awfully early winter - heaps of snow, cold weather, and all - but it’s so much more difficult to do so when you already have physical barriers holding you back in everyday life.
This is not a complaint, it’s my reality. Winter for me means taking an extra five minutes in the morning trying to get my heavy-duty boots over my prosthetic foot, and adjusting the heel height. It means going out and buying these boots in the first place, with the seriously insufficient ODSP amount I receive each month. (Now this is something entirely separate, but let it be known that the government is not entirely supportive of the disabled community as working class, surprise surprise.) Winter for me means anxiety. Every day I leave the house, I’m thinking 10 steps ahead (literally), to where I’ll be travelling, how I’m going to get there safely, and what I can do to lessen walking distances for myself. It means fearing ice, and hoping public pathways would have been salted by the time I have to occupy that space.
Winter for me means hoping society will be empathetic to someone whose very physical disability is cloaked by jeans, a long coat, and boots. It means I get uneasy when my mom and I pull into the handicap space, knowing the stares will be even more intense because my disabilities aren’t visible. It means that I have to trust strangers to lend a hand if they see me struggling through harsh weather. Even something as simple as hoping Peterborough Transit drivers will wait a couple extra minutes so I can safely board the bus, and not have to power-walk through slippery tracks, potentially falling.
This all from the simple perspective of a girl with one leg; this doesn’t even cover the full extent of my disabled embodiment. I have a prosthetic right eye that (obviously) limits my vision, which is essentially entirely invisible to anyone who doesn’t know me. Even after having this for 20 years, I still frequently bump into people in supermarkets, malls, you name it. I’ve learned to be more diligent with turning my head to look for other people, but the congenital nystagmus I have in my one seeing eye puts up another barrier as well.
The harshest of these disabilities is my chronic pain. A veteran of this now for over five years, the cold weather worsens the aches that radiates throughout my entire body.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m still capable.
But I’m also done being held on a pedestal of relentless inspiration that I can ‘do anything I put my mind to’. Maybe I can, mentally, but there are many physical limitations that I simply cannot overcome, no matter what, because I’m physically lacking.
This is not a complaint, it’s my reality. My point is that winter can be a very strenuous time for many - especially those who additionally deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The disabled community is present and strong; I hope this piece can serve as helpful for anyone else who identifies and wants this all said and known.
Take your time out there, and slow down if you notice you’re moving too quickly even if you’re in a rush. Time can certainly be against us all, but what I’ve learned from living in this particular embodiment, is that you can also take it back and use it to your advantage. I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that most people in the disabled community are more efficient with prioritizing their time, because they know they might take longer than “the average person” to get things done, or get from one place to another. This is okay.
Perhaps if you identify as able-bodied individual, and take a moment to slow your mind and body, you will come to understand us a little better.