Recently, I wrote a post called “5 Awkward Situations Only People in Wheelchairs Face“. Because of the great feedback I received on that post, I decided it’d be fun to share more of my awkward anecdotes with you. With that said, feel free to laugh along as I talk about more of the embarrassing moments in my life.
1. Fire alarms
Remember when you were a kid in school and you would get so excited when the fire alarm went off because that meant less class time? Everyone longed to hear that sound and rush outside, even if it was just for five minutes. Well, maybe not everyone. As many of you know, elevators shut down once a fire alarm goes off which leaves the physically disabled in a pretty awkward and dangerous spot if they’re on any floor other than the first. In high school, I found myself on the second floor when the fire alarm would go off on several accounts. My assistant would carry me out of the building, but for safety reasons, the school always insisted on having a firefighter (side note: these firefighters weren’t like the ones you see on Chicago Fire) carry me back in. Yup, cue the awkwardness. I had to randomly be in some stranger’s arms as he profusely sweated up two flights of stairs to my class. Don’t get me wrong, I was always thankful for their help. But between the uncomfortable small talk and being a little too close for comfort to these men, I wanted nothing more than to escape those awkward situations.
2. Faulty, automatic doors
How exactly do automatic doors work? I would have to assume there’s a sensor that picks up when you’re walking (or rolling) towards the door, right? Now, call me crazy but I swear that these automatic doors have something against people in wheelchairs. I’ve been hit by an automatic door before, and I’ve been hit more than once! Okay, so maybe I’m just slightly bitter about it, but it’s kind of awkward when a door unexpectedly shuts on you, literally, in public. Please tell me this happens to other wheelchair users. Just the other day my friend and I were exiting a building that had one of these temperamental doors. She went through just fine, but as soon as I tried to go through, the door smacked right into me. I was too embarrassed to look back and see if anyone saw, but I have to admit, it did give us a good laugh.
3. Reckless driving
People in wheelchairs may have quite a few years of experience when it comes to operating their electric chairs, but let’s not forget mistakes are inevitable. We dent walls, we accidentally collide into other people, and sometimes we even break garage doors (sorry dad). One reckless moment after another, the awkwardness quickly piles up and you begin to wonder if maybe there should be a driving test before getting your own wheelchair. I was two and a half when I received my first electric chair, and that Christmas I accidentally knocked over the Christmas tree…oops.
4. Traveling abroad
Handicapped accessibility overseas is somewhat scarce depending on where you go, yet I still beg my parents to take me on a trip to Portugal every summer (I strongly recommend going there on your next vacation, it’s beautiful!). Aside from the general inaccessibility to many local businesses, one of the biggest problems I find with traveling to Europe is the difference in power outlets. Having to rely on transformers for all of your American gadgets can become a serious problem, especially if you have an electric wheelchair. I mean, let’s face it. What’s more awkward than blowing your wheelchair battery charger on a transformer the second day into your vacation?
I highly doubt that what I’m about to tell you has happened to anyone else, but it is one of the most embarrassingly awkward situations to have ever happened to me. My family and I were staying in this super fancy hotel on the beach right outside of Lisbon, Portugal, and on our last day there, my brother and I thought up this “genius” idea to let me ride the elevator by myself. As he went to document my new sense of independence with my camera (as pictured below), the elevator door shut without him having pushed a button. Because of my disability, I was unable to reach for the button and ended up apprehensively riding the elevator to a random floor. When the door opened, a couple walked in and the three of us awkwardly waited in the elevator until they realized no button had been pushed. Confused and concerned, they eventually asked me what floor I needed to go to. My family ended up getting some slightly judgmental looks at breakfast from that couple, and that’s when I knew it was time to head back to The States. To this day, I still wonder what that couple could have possibly thought about when they saw some girl just hanging out in an elevator.