Been an interesting few weeks. On September 4, I went in for minor knee surgery – should have been a few days of discomfort and then a few weeks of steady recovery and I’d be back, better than ever… well, that was the idea. Don’t know what went wrong, but it involved lots of swelling and pain, and a couple of unscheduled nights in hospital. In the scheme of things it’s still pretty minor stuff – even though three weeks later, I’m still on crutches, I am slowly getting better and there shouldn’t be any permanent problems. What has been interesting though, is the stuff I’ve learned on the way.
1) You get helpless real fast! When things go wrong, they go wrong quickly. One minute you’re tracking OK and the next, you’re doped up with morphine, unable to move around independently and incapable of doing anything more than watch TV. Don’t ever imagine you won’t end up there: very confronting.
2) Life on crutches is hard! Every day you walk around town you’ll see people with mobility problems. There are people on crutches, with walking sticks, in wheelchairs. It’s commonplace – so much so that I know I take it for granted that they’re doing OK, sure it’s inconvenient, but it can be done. That was until I tried to get off a tram for the first time the other day. It is a long way down when you’ve got a bung leg and only a pair of crutches to stop you! Around about then I began to appreciate just how terrifying it must be for all those people, particularly the older ones, who don’t have the greatest balance or have some other problem. Trams, stairs, crossing busy roads, doors that want to squash you, even just an uneven footpath – all these things present incredible obstacles that I never have given a thought to in my daily life. So next time you see someone with a walking stick, just make sure they don’t need a hand with anything. It might be a minute’s inconvenience for you, but nothing like what they face every minute of every day.
3) Accessibility matters. I was once surprised during a conversation with an architect who was bemoaning the cost of complying with disabled access regulations. Coming from a web development background I was familiar with the extra care that was required to ensure compliance with disability legislation. It’s much the same in concrete as it is in html… it takes a little more time, but the benefits are for all. Now that I’ve been on the other side of this, temporarily disabled, and I’ve seen just how daunting it can be when an environment is not well designed. What makes my blood boil though, is that there are still plenty of people (in my organisation and elsewhere), who commission, manage and build websites that don’t comply with accessibility legislation. The arrogance is breathtaking: as if it isn’t hard enough just getting by day to day with a disability, there are people out there who think it isn’t worth the effort to make life for these people just a little easier. I’m just going to have to take a bit more of a mongrel attitude with me when I return to work!