27 January 2012

Parsing Disability

Monday, I ran 2.5 miles.  Wednesday, I biked nine, and lugged my bike up and down stairs in train stations.  Thursday, I failed the Stairs Test coming out of a subway station.  (The Mate: "Hurry up, we're going to miss the light."  He looked back, and realized I was having trouble getting up the stairs  That's how suddenly it came on.)

The ADA doesn't list medical conditions.  It defines disability, thus:
An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.
What is a cane, a walker, a wheelchair? Sign? symbol? marker? indicator? signifier?

I got on a bus yesterday, panting as I struggled up the three steps in.  It was full.  Aside from the fact that I was clinging to a pole and gasping for breath, I apparently appeared able-bodied (whatever the hell that might mean) to the people sitting at the front of the bus.

Above their seats, signs glued to the windows: "Please give this seat to an elderly or disabled person."  One of the letters, I can't remember which one, is replaced by a heart, whose cuteness at that moment was too precious.

The sitters all looked pretty able-bodied to me, but who knows?

Nobody stood.

Is walking down the street a major life activity? Climbing a set of stairs?  I think so.  I'm impaired in my ability to do these things, today.  Doc is on deck for this afternoon, which means two more bus trips, each punctuated by a change of buses, so four buses in all.

On the outbound leg of the trip (retrieving The Offspring from Hebrew school), the bus had been empty, and I had a seat.  I wondered: if someone came in with a walker, a cane, some other physical object denoting impairment, would I be obliged to give up my seat?  I moved farther back in the bus to avoid the problem.


Impairment is impairment, whether temporary or permanent, whether caused by illness or injury.  I've had to invoke the ADA in order to obtain accommodations in my working conditions, in the past.

I feel sort of fraudulent about it: two days ago, I was riding a bike; today I'm flattened.  But two days ago I knew today might come.  And today, I don't know how long this will last, how weakened I will be before I can ride a bike again.

Wrestling.  Despair comes, but I can feint, or beat it away with my fists.  The wrenching of sense of self that comes when I think of myself as disabled... more difficult  I started the first draft of this post with a reference to "crip days." I tried to fling out the clipped term for humor, defiance, denial.  Didn't work.