So, I want to start this article off by saying that I had some trepidation about that title up there. I tend not to like to call people "douchebags." It's one of the most vile
insults of the world, in my book. Right up there with the "C" word. I'm more of an "asshat" kind of girl, but for this particular piece, douchebag was about as fitting a descriptor as I could muster.
need to tell you that I, too, have fit squarely into the douchebag category in the past. But then my daughter got her wheelchair, and I heeded the advice of Zelda Rubenstein when she was trying to save Carol Ann. I came into the light. And because I came into
the light, I feel it is my responsibility as a mom to a kid who uses a wheelchair, a friend to people that use wheelchairs, and well, as a human being, to help you do the same. Here are five ways you can steer clear of able-bodied douchebaggery, and continue being the lovely human being you most likely already are:
1. Accessible Fitting Rooms
This sign is typically seen in Target or Walmart fitting rooms. It means that families and people in wheelchairs (or utilizing mobility aids) can use this particular fitting room. It is large. It has 2 mirrors. It is for the mom with a kid (or kids) in tow, the mom with the kiddo in the wheelchair (or utilizing Caroline's Cart), or simply, the person in the wheelchair (or on crutches, or using a walker, or any
type of mobility aide, really). If you do not fall into one of those categories, THIS DRESSING ROOM IS NOT FOR YOU. Do not hop
your solo self in there because you want to take numerous selfies of the front and
back of your outfit to post on Instagram. Do not pop on in there because it's the only dressing room left. That's like taking the handicapped parking spot because it's the only spot left. If you wouldn't park your car
in the handicapped spot, don't park your booty in the wheelchair accessible fitting room.
*Also, don't ignore the person who calls you out for doing it, or get snippy with them. It just makes you look like a bigger douchebag, and again, I kind of think you're probably not
2. Caroline's Cart
In case you're unaware, THIS is Caroline's Cart.
And this is my kid in "Caroline's Cart". Caroline's Cart was designed specifically for individuals with disabilities. If you've never had to get a child (or adult) with low to no muscle tone in or out of a typical shopping cart, you have NO IDEA how much of a godsend this cart is. I have almost dropped my child and nearly fallen to the ground in the middle of a busy parking lot while trying to get her out of a standard cart. So, this is really a two part instruction on how not to be an able-bodied douchebag in regards to Caroline's Cart. A) If you are not traveling with a child, teen, or adult that utilizes a wheelchair or mobility aid, DO NOT USE THIS CART. It is not a backup cart for when all of the other kid carts are taken. It is not a cart for your pet. It's not a cart for your kid who is tired of walking the aisles with you. It is for parents of children that use mobility aids, and adults shopping with other adults who use mobility aids. Please do not make me call you out if I see you doing this (and yes, person
about to comment about invisible illnesses, I know about invisible illnesses). B) If you see someone pulling ALL of the kid carts out, just to get to Caroline's Cart, and she's struggling to hold her own child while doing so, HELP HER OR HIM OUT. I cannot tell you how many times people have stood and watched me struggle (patrons and employees alike), and even commented about how much of an inconvenience it seems to be, and then grabbed their own super accessible, easy to grab shopping
cart and gone on their merry way. Please don't be that person. Not only does it qualify you to move straight to the top of the douchebag line, but it can (and actually has) reduce the person struggling to tears of anger and frustration.
3. Wheelchair Accessible Restrooms/Stalls
So this one is a bit tricky because of moms with multiple children, including babies in strollers. I have a hard time putting those moms in the douchebag category because the stalls/rooms are larger than the rest of the stalls, and you can't leave small children waiting for you outside the restroom. Also, in some restrooms, the baby changing table is in
the wheelchair accessible stall/restroom. While I don't agree with this design, I can't fault the parent for that. This sign means that stall/restroom is for families AND individuals with mobility aids. However, I can
fault the able-bodied person who pops in there in front of the person in the wheelchair (or parent with a child in a wheelchair). I can (and will) fault the person who parks their stroller directly in front of the wheelchair accessible stall when it's in use, leaving the user trapped until the owner of said stroller is done. If this is you, paint a red letter D on your chest. You know why. But I sincerely hope it isn't you. Please don't be that person. I am holding on to hope that you are not.
4. Basic Human Decency
I really shouldn't have to say this, but don't ask parents of children in wheelchairs what's "wrong" with their children—especially right in front
of their children. It is rude. It is insensitive. And you wouldn't do it to the parents of an able-bodied child who maybe had a skinned knee or a cast on their arm. You wouldn't ask an adult this question either. But time and time again the conversation goes from "Oh my goodness she is so stinkin' cute!" to "So what's wrong with her?" Um, does it look
like there's anything wrong with her? And because at that point I have lost all the act right
I was born with, I usually reply with some smart quip about nothing being wrong with her, but so many things wrong with society when it sees a differently abled kiddo and automatically thinks something is "wrong." Should I respond that way? I dunno. Maybe not. I'm sure there was a Sunday school lesson that talked about being kind and gracious, but at this point, just put me in a handbasket and ring Satan's doorbell because I am over it. There is nothing "wrong" with people that have differently-abled bodies, but there is something very
wrong with assuming that there is. Here is an alternative, non douchebag
way to ask the same question and get the kind, polite
response you're looking for: "May I ask what the diagnosis is?" That is respectful, smart, and will likely keep you from incurring wrath, a wicked side eye, and possibly even a pop in the mouth.
5. Handicapped Parking Spaces
Last but not least (and I kind of eluded to this in number 1), DO NOT PARK IN THE HANDICAPPED PARKING SPACE IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A PLACARD OR LICENSE PLATE STATING YOU CAN. If you see this
or this, or this,
ANYWHERE you're thinking about parking your vehicle, find another spot. Seriously. FIND. ANOTHER. SPOT. Or risk side eyes, snide remarks, and slashed tires. This is the ultimate douchebag move. There's a special place in hell for the douchebags that park in these spots with no reason other than "I'm just gonna be a minute." You know what else takes "just a minute"? A call to a local tow company.
But you're not that guy, right?
At least not anymore, right?