I recently went to a doctor’s office and had a slightly unsettling experience.
Inaccessible and Feeling Trapped
First of all, when I got there, I had to go through multiple exams taking about three hours. I expected to be there for a long period of time. Unless it’s for a routine checkup it usually takes a while. However, it was when I entered the room right before I was set to see the doctor that the exam turned to a negative experience. My chair had to be placed just outside the room because it was so small, they had no room to accommodate it. This may not seem like a big deal to able bodied people. However, let me ask you a question. If you entered a waiting room and the assistant sat, you down in the room asked you not to move even if you needed to how would that make you feel? Especially if you needed to use the restroom. Honestly, I felt trapped. I couldn’t go anywhere in an emergency which put me in an uncomfortable position. It reminded me of a time when I was in college and was in a similar situation. This was approximately eight years after the Americans with Disabilities Act. I had a class on the second floor which I didn’t anticipate being a problem. They had a mock fire alarm and had everyone (except for me) evacuate the building. I was told to go in the stairwell, and someone would come to bring you down. That never happened. In that moment I definitely felt alone and helpless. I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen in the case of a real fire alarm. Just like at the doctor’s office what would happen in the case of an emergency, and I was stuck in the chair unable to move.
Enter The Doctor
The doctor entered the room said hello to me noticed me wheelchair outside the exam room and asked me how did you get here? “My car” I replied He said to me “Oh you can drive like normal people” He then followed it up with “I’m sorry I don’t know the proper terminology. My question is should doctors know proper terminology for disabled people? Even a rudimentary version of that term. I don’t care what term people use when describing me. I really don’t. The one word you should never use when describing someone with a disability is normal. Becoming educated on terms you can use for different people and the situation they may find themselves in is important. Ignorance can shut you out of many conversations and it exacerbates the problem. The sooner we learn to come together as a people disabled or not, the better. I mostly write this blog to help others. It matters what others believe, how they feel and how they are treated. The biggest takeaway from this experience I want people to have is the language you use and to notice how inaccessible many places in the world can be.