Wheel Life: I Wonder Why I Write about Disability Issues
By Sarah Poiesz
Sun & Record/Wayne County Mail
I sometimes wonder why I write about disability issues.
Do I do this for me? Is it for people I don’t know? What’s my end goal? I can complain about legislation and healthcare cuts, lack of accessibility or people’s attitudes…but what really is the purpose of all that?
This past weekend, I realized the answer: I write to encourage myself and others to live life the way we want, on our terms, and to enjoy the hell out of it.
My mom and I went to the NY Star Fair. I’ve gone with my wheelchair basketball team for a tournament every Labor Day for the past four years, but I’ve barely seen anything besides a blacktop basketball court and some youth barrel races.
I’ve been to fairs as a kid, but it’s been over a decade since I’ve been able to attend one so large. We saw the typical attractions: the sand sculpture (Wow!), the horticultural building (so many flowers and butterflies!), and a ginormous display of local art (those photos are just spectacular). What I’ve really missed most about fairs, however, are the rides. I’ve always loved going on roller coasters since I was little and graduated from the kiddie rides to the bigger, more adult rides.
This year I got to go on some. My first stop was the biggest Ferris Wheel. I tried to convince my mom to go up with me, but she adamantly refused. Admittedly I was a little scared at first but once we got moving the view was totally worth it.
Next up was my most anticipated ride: the roller coaster. I was so excited to get on that ride. Then I actually got there and saw every wheelchair user’s biggest enemy: stairs. In the middle of a ramp. How preposterous.
I was so upset. Indignant. Angry. Finally, dejected. I had all but decided not to go on the ride when I told my mom. Thankfully, she asked if I could crip walk up. I was about to say “No,” until she all but decided for me that yes, I was in fact going on that roller coaster.
I ended up going twice.
Despite forgetting about my glasses or that I might not want my phone with me, then getting my head knocked around the second time, it was the best thing I’ve done in months. It was so freeing. Heck, the stunned and impressed reactions from other fair goers made the experience even better.
If you’re someone like me and let some steps stop you from doing what you really want to do, stop. Right now. It’s not worth it.
If you can manage, go ahead and do the thing.
If you’re with someone with a disability who wants to do something but is hesitant, encourage them. Don’t let them get away with chickening out because it might be a little difficult. If they really don’t want to do it, that’s one thing. But if the only thing holding them back is a little hesitation, be that extra push that reminds them they are capable of doing whatever it is.
I truly loved all of the other attractions. But the most memorable, freeing thing about my time at the fair was that I was able to face fears, both about myself and the rides, and conquer them.
That is why we need everything to be accessible: so that people with disabilities can live their lives the way we want. So we can not only survive on medical appointments and medications but on the exhilaration of doing something that lights up ours souls or defeats the boundaries we’ve all put on each other.
After all, everyone should be able to have their head bopped around on a roller coaster if they so choose.