A day at the zoo

Every day is a day at the zoo if you are the one in the cage. I would dread needing to use the bathroom at any time that wasn't recess. The teacher would grant me permission to leave, then as I exited all eyes would be on me, watching me manoeuvre my way out of the room.

It seemed as though the whole world stopped to give everyone, including the teacher, ample opportunity to focus their full attention on my walking with aides. My interpretation was that they were trying to decipher "What's wrong with her?" The answer: nothing that can't be fixed with a couple of crutches or a brace.

I'm watching where you are walking

I quickly learned that, in addition to the obstacle course of desks, chairs and tables, non-disabled people generally do not watch where they are putting their feet. I had to be quite conscious of my movements, where my body parts were and the path I would take. The non-disabled would make quick turns that would throw me into disarray, sometimes literally.


Every day is a day at the zoo if you are the one in the cage.

I learned that the safest way to walk was to monitor the movements of the non- disabled and adjust my own accordingly. I learned to accommodate and compensate the non-disabled students and teachers for their lack of thinking. Today, I have very acute hand-eye coordination.

The puddle incident

I was wearing a leg brace that did not bend at the knee and had a small bar at the bottom. This small bar was my walking surface as my foot did not touch the ground. On my other foot was a shoe with a four inch platform lift. Not the best mobility design, and very little traction.

It was winter. There was a puddle of melted snow on a linoleum school hallway. I slipped and fell. What a fiasco. It look what seemed like forever to figure out how to right myself, to stand up again. I would just about make it back up and then the bottom of my brace would slip in the water and I would be back on the ground again.

I was trapped by a puddle. In the midst of this struggle, I noticed that I had drawn an audience three layers thick. After much trial and error-and consequent learning- I eventually figured out how to move my legs and arms, and which muscles to use, in order to stand up. No one offered to assist me, and I learned something about rugged individualism. It is to be independent and not expect a helping band.

I also learned about learning. Have a plan. Try it. If it doesn't work, review and evaluate the steps, then make changes. Eventually, the appropriate sequences will become evident. The scary part was, and in some situations continues to be, how long will it take to become evident? It would happen faster, with less trauma, if I had a bit of help. Respectful inter-dependence benefits us all.

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