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Monday, April 9, 2007

Fair Shmair

I went to renew my driver’s license today. And, indicative of my wacky life, I had a “moment” at the insurance agency.

Ellie was along with me, being a wiggle worm in her stroller. As I approached the insurance agency building, I realized that I would have to maneuver up two rather steep steps. This is highly annoying with a 10 pound stroller, carrying a 30 pound girlie.

Then it hit me. How would Ellie ever make her way into this building in a wheelchair?

My first emotion was anger. Why would you not make your entrance wheelchair accessible? Doesn’t the law make it mandatory? (Said insurance company had opened a new office in this building only two months ago, so current building codes would certainly be in effect.) I wanted to boycott the company! But, before leaving to patron their competition, I wanted to march inside (after awkwardly fumbling the stroller over the stairs and grappling with the non-automatic door), raise my voice and yell at the owner!

Instead, I simply fumbled and grappled, and stood in line to pay for my driver’s license. I gave the agency my money, said thank you, and fumbled and grappled my way out. Not because I was afraid of raising a stink or drawing attention to myself, but because I didn’t want to deal with it internally.

I don’t want to think about the future involving a wheelchair. I don’t want to imagine how I’m going to run errands with Ellie. I don’t want to plot my route according to which stores have handicap accessibility. I don’t want that to be MY life.

But what if it IS my life? More importantly, what if that’s Ellie’s life? I can choose to run my errands or shop without Ellie. However, Ellie will never be able to escape it. If she ends up using a wheelchair, she will have to be forever mindful of entrances and elevators, of parking spots and aisle widths.

It’s amazing how your life lenses change when you have a disabled child. Three years ago, I would have rolled my eyes at the required “excessive and expensive” handicapped accessible building codes. I would have curled up my nose in jealousy over the “awesome parking spot” someone snatched, simply because they had a handicapped sticker.

Now that accessibility is hitting so close to home (heck, it’s hitting INSIDE my home!), I’m singing a different tune. It’s NOT fair that Ellie would have to drive an extra three miles to find an insurance agency that has a wheelchair ramp. It’s NOT fair that Ellie’s Sunday School class will have to meet in the boiler room, because it’s the only classroom on ground level. It’s NOT fair that Ellie may not have a junior-high locker beside her friends’, because she’ll need one downstairs.

I realize, of course, that Ellie is the far minority, and that it may be unreasonable to ask churches and schools and stores to spend tens of thousands of dollars on their buildings in order to accommodate her. As a parent, how passionately do I fight for these things? At what point do we sigh, and simply come to terms with the fact that life ISN’T fair?