RHODY LIFE

There but for the grace of God, go I

Posted 11/11/21

Jason is a twenty-three year old professional occupational therapist who utilizes a wheelchair due to paraplegia. He leads a "perfectly normal" life. When he parks his car, he utilizes a handicapped parking space that has an additional outlined area

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RHODY LIFE

There but for the grace of God, go I

Posted

Jason is a twenty-three year old professional occupational therapist who utilizes a wheelchair due to paraplegia. He leads a “perfectly normal” life. When he parks his car, he utilizes a handicapped parking space that has an additional outlined area because he has to open his door wide to access his wheelchair from his back seat. Once in his chair, he uses the curb cut, outlined in yellow, to get into his office, except last Monday when a car was parked at the sidewalk blocking the curb cut. With a light drizzle outside, Jason was soon getting wet as he waited impatiently for the owner to come back to his car so he could give him a tongue-lashing. Finally coming outside with his newly prepared smoothie, a youngish man apologetically rushed into the driver’s seat and moved his car after an educational lecture from Jason, who finally had the ability to access his office.

No sooner had Jason opened the front door than he turned around to see a car squeezing to park in the outlined area next to his car. Jason sighed. Doesn’t the general public understand that that spot is outlined for a reason? The spot is designed so individuals with physical disabilities can independently park without requiring any additional assistance.

Monica is an 82-year-old retired professional caseworker who leads a “perfectly normal” life. Although she is deaf and uses American Sign Language, she is able to lip read to help her understand what people are saying. That is, until she experienced terrible shoulder pain and went to a walk-in clinic to seek medical help.

Almost in tears, she walked up to the receptionist who was wearing a mask for COVID. Wearing a mask with a clear area over the mouth, she asked the young woman if the office had any similar masks to communicate with people who are deaf. The answer was no. She then asked if the receptionist could lower her mask so she could observe her lip movements to see what she was saying. The receptionist adamantly shook her head “no”, and pointed to a sign that said wearing a mask during COVID was a mandatory office policy. The woman’s mask stayed put over her mouth as she talked to Monica in words Monica could neither hear nor understand.

She wrote a note asking Monica why she didn’t bring a relative, friend or a sign language interpreter with her to help. Fiercely independent and having no communication problems as long as she could read people’s lips, Monica was appalled at this request. Didn’t doctor offices know, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, that it is their obligation to provide accommodations for a person with a disability? Obviously this office was non-compliant in this area, and appeared blissfully unaware that their federal funding would be in jeopardy were a complaint to be filed. Extremely frustrated, Monica filled out the paperwork on a clipboard that had been thrust at her, and the receptionist again sent useless syllables Monica’s way. In the exam room, the doctor similarly donned a mask and similarly refused to lower it as he sent Monica to the x-ray department, where a technician silently pushed and pulled Monica in different directions, movements which were unwelcomed in her personal space.

A tearful Monica returned to the examining room feeling humiliated at the useless manipulation of her body when all she needed was to be able to see the technician’s words to comply herself. The meeting with the physician in the exam room was another useless waste of time. He wrote out a prescription for pain pills and dismissed her on her way. Clutching the prescription for an ailment she knew nothing about despite having been to the walk-in clinic, Monica cried all the way home both out of frustration and pain. How could an independent woman who had cared for herself and worked for others her whole life be treated with such insensitivity?

If people could put themselves in the shoes of the person with a disability, there would be no handicapped parking spot violations, no parking in front of curb cuts, and definitely more efforts to communicate effectively with people who are deaf. Perhaps citizens would understand things better if they embrace the saying “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

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