“Temporarily abled”

I had read Dressing While Disabled by JustStimming a while back, and it had nudged me into seeing how much we “able-bodied” take for granted about pretty much everything. Seriously, we do. We wake up, get out of bed (with varying degrees of ease, but it’s usually easy), shower, dress, eat, etc., without thinking about it. We just DO things as we move through our day. Because of this post, it’s something I’m now aware of – but it’s a spotty, temporary awareness, that pops in and out of consciousness based on what’s going on around me. It’s not something I’m conscious of 100% of my waking hours.

Recently, there was a reply to my reblog that added another dimension to the Dressing While Disabled post, from tpcoughlinhomespunyarns.wordpress.com:

“When one is not disabled one is part of the “Temporarily Able-Bodied” community. They take most things for granted. If one lives long enough, something will slow them down. ALWAYS! Once you have joined the normal community, you realize you can take nothing for granted and have to take everything and every day, one step at a time.”

When I was in college, I tore the cartilage in my knee. This was back in the days when you were in a straight-leg knee brace for SIX WEEKS, with crutches. The above picture is one of the buildings I had classes in at college. See those stairs? My class was up there. I don’t know if there were elevators (this was 30 years ago). That staircase was LOADS of fun – I’m glad I didn’t fall and put myself in the hospital. My dorm room was on the 2nd floor (different building) – no elevators. I couldn’t bend my knee for a while. I was temporarily disabled, but I got better.  I’m lucky.

Present day, my body works fine. A bit achy when the weather’s bad, and I’m approaching 50, so things are going to shift around a bit 😉  But my dad is 90 and his life has changed drastically. I’m not going into the details, but he can no longer drive, he can’t go bowling (he LOVED bowling, was in a league), he can’t do what he used to do. Age, and health have conspired against him and made him disabled

Yes, we “expect” this when we get old, but others in my family are younger, and they’ve had knee replacements, surgeries, etc. Unless we are SUPER lucky, we are all only TEMPORARILY abled. In most cases we will recover – but not all.

Humans tend to be kind of selfish – we tend to think of OUR normal as EVERYONE’s normal. And since most of us are NOT currently disabled, we don’t see the world as difficult to navigate until we find ourselves in that space. We see the world from where we are, and it often takes an outside force to move us from that place to see the world from where others experience it.

I’m not saying we need to worry, fret, whatever about becoming disabled. I’m not trying to be a downer. But I am asking that we open our eyes and minds, and look at the world with an attitude that mirrors Universal Design in architecture. We need to think outside of our experiences – and yes, this takes work and purposeful thinking – and ask how we can make the world around us friendly to as many people as possible. I think that world would be a pretty fantastic place.

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