I have never been angry about my disability. It exists and my job is to fit into the world of the ambulant. It’s neither difficult nor depressing but using a wheelchair can be a little daunting when it comes to visiting the little ‘house on the prairie’.
When I was completely mobile and walked tall it never occurred to me that a three point turn in the ‘John’ was something close to an acrobatic move performed by a double jointed cat on heat. The little blue sign on the dunnie door, depicting a wheelchair warrior, is enough to strike fear into the heart of the bravest of us. It seems that the design elements for a disability toilet are engineered by Lilliputians with no fear of claustrophobia. Not to put too fine a point on it, most disability bogs are no bigger than a cat’s sand box.
Restaurants are particularly troublesome. It’s the place where you fill up, so the likelihood of emptying out is high. But venturing into a restaurant’s disability toilet can only be likened to a military scaled operation.
First you have to navigate the entry. Sounds easy but when the door has its own self closing feature and weighs 1,200 kilos you can pretty much kiss your night goodbye as your hernia twangs for a second time. Assuming you are lucky enough to gain entry your new mission is to get in without the self closing door trapping you and your wheelchair against the sink.
Having transversed the door and the sink, without the hand drier going off, you now have to find a way to dismount the chair and transfer your exhausted frame to the toilet seat. Don’t get me wrong I’m not a short bloke but believe it or not toilets all have different heights and slowly lowering oneself onto the seat depends on how far you are from the ground. For a male a slow drop is not an option, certain body parts preclude you from simply depth charging your way down. Hence for a small moment you are crouched in free fall praying you’ve chosen the right landing spot.
God’s work completed you are now faced with the return journey and your first challenge is to dismount without permanently becoming a feature of the tiled floor. Bars are helpful but whoever decided their position is either a visitor from another planet or their knuckles have gravel rash. Sorry, guys my arms just aren’t that long and Archimedes, with his lever may have experienced difficulty finding the fulcrum.
Having scaled the wall, leaving nail marks as a record of your visit you now become aware of the fact that your wheelchair is facing in the wrong direction. You have two choices, dive into the depths of the toilet pan or manoeuver yourself around the toilet roll, pass the hand drier, smashing your hip into the sink – good job its titanium – and fall into your chair only to discover you are now too close to the door.
The whole saga is completed by backing your chair into the toilet pan in a 36 point quarter turn and completely breathless calling on the Deity for the strength to open the 1,200 kilos of solid jarrah they call a door. Out at long last, you find everyone’s gone home and your guests are reporting you as a missing person.
And so ends a day in the life of a pretty happy guy. I thank God for every day, I’m lucky to be alive and my advice to anyone, able or disabled is this. Remember happiness is not conditional, it’s inside you – just draw it out but stay out of the disability washroom.