Stolen Freedom

Last year, I received one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. A kind family donated their departed matriarch’s wheelchair to me, after I had previously been told that my pain and inability to stand or walk far distances was not valid criteria to qualify for the accessibility device program.

Having access to the chair opened up worlds to me that I had long been unable to experience. I was able to go back into nature again, to explore my neighbourhood, my city, more thoroughly and comfortably. I was able to enjoy the outdoors more thoroughly than I had in years. I could even play Pokémon Go, without having to be the passenger in a slow-moving vehicle.

I met many of my neighbours and became an actual part of my community.

Although I was facing the fact that my marriage was falling apart, that I was facing even more financial vulnerability and hardship than I had already dealt with for the past seven years, I felt better about myself than I had in a long time.

I felt more a part of the world than I had before.

As the weather cooled and it became too cold to ride around, I parked it in the closet and plugged it in to wait for the weather to warm up again.

With the spring came my desire to pull out my wheelchair and go for a ride around the neighbourhood. I wanted to go for a ride around Andrew Hayden, take more photographs, and commune with nature. To my surprise, I found the wheelchair unplugged. I plugged it back in to top it up, but the next day, there was no change in charge. I tried many different things, different plugs, cleaning the connections, and still nothing.

That’s when I found out that wheelchair batteries cannot be allowed to die. Ever. Or they will die for good and there is nothing you can do to bring them back. I know, because the technician tried.

The accessibility device program had just replaced my batteries in September. They were brand new and I was really looking forward to exploring their limits. No such luck for me. Not only are the batteries completely dead but because they had been newly replaced, I cannot get the cost of replacements covered. To replace them out of pocket would cost upwards of a thousand dollars.

I have felt the lack of the chair very intensely this spring and summer.

It’s made it harder to get out to the community garden and oven. Now rather than just heading out the door in my chair, I have to take my car, find a spot, and walk over. I have to stand while I work on the plot, meaning the time I am capable of spending there is severely limited. The impact on my back of having to haul buckets of water and not being able to either hook it over the chair or hold it in my lap, has meant more pain and less water for my plants. Since I can’t give the plants as much attention, they aren’t producing as much as they otherwise could, meaning the amount of food I’m able to replace with that grown on my own is reduced.

Even more, not being able to go to the garden has meant not having the chance to connect with friends from the neighbourhood. At a time when I most needed the support of people in my community, I was kept from being a part of it. At a time when I most needed people, I was kept isolated.

It’s made running errands more difficult, since there much more of an energy cost involved than being able to cruise around in my chair. Knowing that I could go out for however long I need to, and not have to worry about it meaning that I spend my evening in pain, or too exhausted to make dinner.

I wasn’t able to go exploring to the same level that I did last summer. I couldn’t lose myself in the natural world the same way, always at the mercy of sudden pain, at the mercy of my digestive system being triggered by walking but too far away from a bathroom to make it in time. At a time when I most needed a way to decompress, to disconnect not just from the stress of my situation but also from the constant need to be productive, to produce something, to be doing something, – I had the ability to do that by losing myself in the beauty of some wild places.

Taking away my wheelchair is like taking away my legs. My freedom has been stolen.


Stolen Freedom

6 thoughts on “Stolen Freedom

  1. 1

    I am so sorry to hear about what happened to your obesity scooter. When did it get stolen? Your post never got to that. It just stopped at the part where the government supplied batteries failed because you did not properly care for them. Perhaps the government should supply you with a butler or personal assistant? After all, it is cruel and unjust to expect you to take care of your own stuff-after all, you have blogging to do, arts and crafts projects to make, and weed to smoke! Better yet, instead of a second hand obesity scooter, the government should provide you with a rickshaw and some porters to carry you around at your leisure. The rubes that work and pay taxes in Ottawa already get to keep too much of their money as it is.

    1. 1.1

      1. First off, the mobility device in question is a wheelchair- Not a scooter and certainly not any of this fat shaming bullshit you refer to as an obesity scooter. A wheelchair. I also use a walker and a cane. Why? NOT as you SO CHARMINGLY assume because of my weight, but because of a degenerative illness is my spine and hips. My spine is slowly losing its cartilage and in time several of my vertebrae will fuse together. My right hip is already severely damaged and will need replacement likely in the next decade. I’m 31 and the fact that it hasn’t had to be replaced yet is entirely due to my hard work in managing my arthritis. How do I do that? Well among other things, I USE A FUCKING WHEELCHAIR WHEN MY ARTHRITIS IS ACTING UP.

      Now let’s address that fat shaming bullshit in your comment SHALL WE! Your and the rest of societies assumption that the use of motorized mobility aids is for laziness sake and that they add to obesity in general is nothing more than bigotry. Mobility aids are used for a variety of reasons including but not limited to helping prevent dangerous falls due to exhaustion, existing joint damage, or any other variety of reasons. They can be used for pain reduction for people with degenerative conditions, existing joint damage, injuries, and so on. Many mobility reducing disabilities may be correlated with obesity not because being fat causes them but rather because obesity can be a side effect of pain, different treatments, overwhelming stress like say having to justify your need to use a damned device every time you leave the house not to mention dealing with snide comments, dirty looks, nasty notes, vandalism, and a whole host of other ways people like yourself find to let us know how worthless, useless, and ugly you consider us.

      AND HERE’s THE KICKER – Having a wheelchair last summer led to me losing 60 lbs. That’s right! What you so sweetly referred to as my obesity scooter helped me lose weight. Why’s that? Because it turns out that when my body is able to be in less pain from doing the things I have to do, like say groceries, like say laundry, then it reduces the level of inflammation in my body which in turn reduces the bodies stress responses including the one that makes the body store excess fat. Additionally, having the chair actually made it possible for me to get more exercise since it meant I could do more shorter bursts of activity, followed by using the chair so my pain levels wouldn’t escalate. It meant I could run errands without ending up in so much pain that I end up unable to cook for myself and forcing me to rely on unhealthy faster foods.

      Additionally, being able to actually participate and be a part of my community helped me improve my mental health, which in turn helped with improving my physical health since turns out the two are way more related that we like to pretend.

      2. My WHEELCHAIR didn’t get stolen, my freedom did. Which you would know had you actually bothered to read the post rather than skim it for ways to be insulting. Moreover, again like was mentioned in the post, the damage the the batteries wasn’t the result of mismanagement on my part. When I stored the chair for winter, it was plugged in, charging, and exactly the way it should be to survive winter. However, unbeknownst to me, my ex wife unplugged it and left it unplugged. I didn’t know this was the case till it was much too late to do anything about it. The batteries were already dead. The damage was the result of someone else’s actions, not my mismanagement. It was someone else’s willful act that let to my chair no longer working. And yet, despite it being someone else’s action that caused the damage, I’m the one being forced to live the with consequences. How would you like to be punished for every mistake someone else makes? But then you don’t really care about the facts do you?

      How did my freedom get stolen? It was stolen by the callousness of my ex wife unplugging and leaving the chair unplugged despite my having informed her of the need for it to stay charged. It was stolen by the assumption that the only reason for a part to have been damaged or to malfunction is because of the disabled persons incompetence, moreover by holding disabled people to a higher and frankly impossible standard of never making mistakes, getting something wrong, or trusting the wrong person. A standard abled society very much doesn’t hold themselves to. By ignoring the fact that messing with someone’s accessibility is a great way to keep them isolated, dependent, and so a not at all uncommon method of abuse, in a population that suffers disproportionately high levels of abuse, and thus helping facilitate said abuse. It was stolen by gatekeeping bullshit that decides that an abled person with no knowledge of my conditions gets to decide for me whether or not I actually need said accessibility. That someone with no knowledge of what it means to be in pain every moment of every day and the only difference being the severity of the pain, gets to decide whether it’s a valid enough reason to need an accessibility device.

      3. I love how your go to insult is to try to shame me for activism I do, which by the way has so far: changed federal laws, have sidewalks and other accessibility oversights fixed around the city, has raised money for important issues, and also cost Autism Speaks 20 million dollars. But yes, what I do is so worthless. In fact it’s SO worthless, that I have to actually pay taxes on it. What’s that?! I’m a tax paying business owner in Ottawa? Well can’t let that fact get in the way of your ableism am i right? To shame me for work I do which helps by my bills. What you so dismissively call my arts and crafts projects are actually products I make for sale. That I actively sell online, at events, by commission, through galleries, and assorted other methods. The blogging, arts, and crafts, are all businesses and ones that generate taxable income. Moreover, businesses I would have more time to devote to and possibly even develop enough not to require even being on disability anymore if I didn’t have to bend over backwards just to get the bare minimum of accessibility, if I wasn’t about to literally be fucking homeless because accessibility is considered so unneeded that there are no accessible places available and the few that may exist are so far outside what one can afford on ODSP (as in the rent is more than I get per month TOTAL to live on) because people like you are so determined to maintain this illusion of disabled worthlessness by setting us up for failure and then using that forced failure as proof of inability to succeed.

      You try to shame me by referencing my medication. That weed you so dismissively make reference to doesn’t just treat my pain which by itself is incredibly important, it is an active part of my crohn’s treatment. When I don’t take my medical marijuana, I end up in the hospital. Why? Because my Crohn’s is no longer sufficiently managed, my inflammation increases, and I end up with a severe active flare that ends up requiring steroids and opiates to shut down. It’s the same reaction as if you took away any of my other treatments because ITS MY FUCKING MEDICINE. Just people some people use it to relax or get high doesn’t change the fact that it’s medicine. It doesn’t make the treatment it provides not real, just like the fact that people drink alcohol for fun doesn’t mean rubbing alcohol doesn’t disinfect wounds. (and yes I know that now most rubbing alcohol sold in stores is propyl rather than ethyl however, that’s a more modern thing in an attempt to limit people drinking the rubbing alcohol and make it possible for pharmacies to sell it without falling victim to liquor board restrictions.) The kind of shaming displayed here though is just one of the reasons why even with approaching legalization I still have to fight for my right to actually get my meds.

      4. Your whole reduction to absurdism (reductio ad absurdum to give the fallacy it’s Latin name) is so brilliantly representative of the social ableism that infects our whole society, it’s pretty much the main reason I bothered to approve this trash of a comment. That and the chance to educate people who actually want to be better about the fallacious nature of ableism and ableists. Wanting to be treated like a human being, wanting the same rights as everyone else, wanting to be allowed to be a part of society, demanding accessibility are all considered unreasonable demands akin to a Prima Donna asking to be carried around. This is exactly why it is so hard to actually get real accessibility in our society because people like you are so convinced that you somehow know better than we do what our needs are and are so convinced that it’s a “special” need rather than just a fucking need.

      5. Your attempts at shaming me and other disabled people with your unsubtle reference to people “that work and pay taxes” thus implying, falsely I might add, that I don’t are pathetically transparent. People on disability pay taxes, we work, we serve our community, we have worth regardless of whether bigots like you recognize it or not. You don’t even notice that you’re cutting off your own nose to spite your face since by limiting accessibility you actually FORCE more people onto disability support payments. Not to mention the fact that by gatekeeping accessibility you increase the need for more expensive devices later on when the results of not having the original access need met leads to long term damage and more severe impairment. Do you know that the gatekeeping bullshit actually resulted in tax payers footing the bill for a device that was three times more expensive than the cheaper one which would have worked? For no good reason.
      Not only do I work and pay taxes, I also help other people in my community by acting as a patient advocate, helping with community project, volunteering in my community and for various organizations. I’ve successfully lobbied the federal government to get laws changed, suceeded in having a hate group shut out of the federal budget, advocated for rights not just of disabled people, but queer and trans people, people of colour, poor people, women and non men, and other oppressed groups. For Fucks sake, the Prime Minister of Canada has one of my paintings

      This comment, on the other hand, served no purpose whatsoever other than to try and hurt and shame me. It was bigoted, fallacious, mean spirited, and ultimately fruitless since all you’ve done is shown yourself for the kind of person you are while not contributing anything of value to the conversation or even succeeding in its goal since I remain unashamed. And you think I’m worthless?

      EDIT: Also the government didn’t provide my wheelchair – the generous family of a woman who passed away did.

    2. 1.2

      I hope you read Ania’s comment, although I doubt you will because cowardly bigots like you don’t listen to facts.

      Facts, mind you, Ania didn’t need to reveal because she (and other disabled folks) shouldn’t have to justify their existence to the likes of you.

      I have nothing further to say to you other than fuck you, you putrid piece of soft-boiled trash.

  2. 3

    I’m sorry that you have to put up with that bullshit (both the life stuff but also the troll). As someone who has disabilities and have been fighting my own battles against gatekeeping recently, as well as some mobility issues… I also can’t help but think “wow, that response was SO good”. I felt the anger and pain and frustration, as I do my own. Thanks Ania for fighting on behalf of all of us, and for posting that most excellent rebuttal.

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