One of the reasons I love swimming is because my MS disappears when I’m in the water. I can dance, do somersaults and jump around all I want. And to top it off, it’s practically the best exercise a person with MS can get, because it is not weight-bearing and I can work and stretch just about any muscles I want.
That’s why I try to swim in the local pool a few times a week. I also use my rollator (walker with wheels) to get me safely from my car to the pool and back. It’s obviously quite important to have the rollator there, because almost all the surfaces are wet and slippery.
When I first joined, I saw that this pool had a couple of showers reserved for people with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires this for most public pools constructed or altered after 1992. That was good to see. I wanted to take a shower after swimming, and it’s downright dangerous to try to balance myself in a non-accessible shower on a slippery floor with no handrails.
I just assumed that when people saw me rolling towards the accessible shower, they wouldn’t try to make a beeline for it and get there before me. I mean, who would do that? The answer, of course, is that most people wouldn’t. But some people would and do.
I’ve had my tangles with those people, just like I’ve had words with people who do not have accessible placards but park in accessible parking places, or who take the “reserved for people with disabilities” table in coffee shops. It’s that last group that perplexes me the most, because they tend to become quite indignant and angry when I ask them to move so I can sit down with my rollator.
It’s easy to get worked up about this, but that’s not only ineffective but unhealthy. I have to pick my battles, remember to breathe and realize that quite often, people are just thoughtless. I mean that quite literally: People often just don’t think about what door they’re walking towards or what table they are sitting at.
And the truth is that a lot of people have disabilities that are not readily apparent, and they need that accessible parking place just as much as I do. I’m a little ashamed to admit that I have occasionally learned that lesson the hard way.
One of the hopes of disability advocates is to eventually have “universal design,” where virtually all buildings are accessible, many more sidewalks have curb cuts and ramps are there when you need them. And that is not just a pipe dream. Since it costs virtually the same to construct a new “accessible” building as a more traditional one, and since many of those buildings are required to adhere to ADA standards when they are constructed or remodeled, it may be just a matter of time before this becomes a reality.
In the meantime, I’ll try to remember to keep breathing!
For more information about the ADA public accommodation requirements, see
NOTHING IN THIS BLOG IS INTENDED TO BE LEGAL ADVICE.
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