Thursday, April 10, 2014

World of Wheelchairs (WOW), Part One

With two broken feet, I'm finding it easiest to get around by wheelchair. I also getting to experience the world in an entirely different way.

For one thing, I'm much shorter than I usual, which isn't that tall to begin with. When standing I'm 5'3". In the wheelchair, I'm under 4". What I can see at that height is quite limited. Yesterday, my mom and I visited the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit at the de Young Museum. One of my favorite things about art museums is the gift shop. But from the wheelchair, I couldn't see many of the cool things displayed on the tables. They were too high (or I was too short). Similarly, when I go to visit the doctor, I can barely see over the front counter to talk to the receptionist. You'd think they'd have designed their front desk a little better, seeing as they are orthopedists and quite a few of their patients are in wheelchairs while waiting for their bones to heal -- like me. But apparently no one thought of that.

Another difference is that my reach is severely limited. I was looking at kids books (for my niece and nephew) at the museum gift shop, and I couldn't reach the books on the third shelf... the ones meant for 8-10 year olds. Apparently I am shorter than the average 8 year old in this wheelchair. How disappointing. I also can't reach the cups or plates in the cupboards at home. And in public bathrooms, I can barely reach the soap dispenser.

I am also quite wide in the wheelchair. I can't fit through normal doorways, including the door to my parents' hall bathroom. I also am very aware of how wide I am and that I cannot just squeeze through. I am literally as stiff as metal and do not give, no matter how much I hold my breath. Often, I find that other people don't give me as much space as I want, and they expect that I'll be able to squeeze by without hitting them. Wrong. If my wheelchair is 30" wide, I need at least 40" of space to be fairly certain I won't hit something to the side of me -- more if I'm on a slope, feeling tired or being pushed by someone whose never been in a wheelchair.

And last, but not least, I have awful turning radius. As much as I would like, I cannot spin in place. I need tons of room just to make a tight u-turn. Even more space if I'm going to do a three-point turn. Really, it's shocking how much space I need. This I found out the hard (not to mention incredibly frustrating) way when I had to use the loo at the de Young Museum.

More about that in part two of this new delightful series.

No comments:

Post a Comment