My oldest stepson was recently injured in a car accident that left him with two broken legs. He’s recovering very well, but our effort to get him home from Texas and to ensure he could get around in our house left me a lot more appreciative of my own mobility. It also made me realize how many challenges people with disabilities must overcome just to stay “even” with those of us who can move around unaided.
But the real lesson I learned in this situation was the importance of being observant. Never before had I taken the time to think in detail about where I park, how I enter a building, or how I navigate a store. I’ve never had to spend time thinking about whether or not I could access a public restroom or a restaurant along the highway during a road trip.
But with my son in a wheelchair, these things began to consume my thoughts. Nothing could be done on the fly – we had to think it out and plan ahead. I was surprised to see a world that was not nearly as accessible as what I thought it would be.
I admire people who do not let their physical, mental or emotional disabilities define them. People are complex, wonderfully made creatures who have more to offer than just a physical body. But I’m also disappointed that so many people – and often our society, too – don’t even pay attention to the difficulties some must overcome just to get from one place to another.
My son was fortunate that his injuries didn’t result in permanent disability, but others face the reality of a physical world closed off to them every day. I hope my personal discovery will help me be more observant about everything – from meeting needs to seeing the value in everyone and everything that I encounter every day.