Last week I had the awesome opportunity to go on a cruise with my family, but for numerous reasons I didn’t want to bring my manual wheelchair (internalized ableism, ableism from my family, structural ableism). I picked up a rollator on Ebay so I could be more supported than my forearm crutches….which worked, kind of.
So here’s my rollator, tucked in the “accessible” stall at Chichen Itza in Mexico. While it helped me be able to get around on my trip, it was also a huge source of frustration. People would literally shove me because I was walking too slowly. If I had a plate of food on the seat in the buffet, people wouldn’t look down, so they’d trip on my rollator (thankfully I never had a plate go flying). Elevator doors wouldn’t be open for long enough to allow me to get on… or the elevator would fill up from abled people and strollers, leaving me to sometimes have to call up to four different elevators to get up a floor on the ship.
What I realized is that sustained walking (aka ambulation in medical terms) is bad for my physical and mental health. By the end of the trip, all I wanted to do was deliberately ram people that got in my way. I was swearing like a sailor every time someone did something to me. I was in so much physical pain that one night I slept an hour, while I spent the other hours in the fetal position crying in agony.
Although I have a manual wheelchair, my campus where I work and study is horrific for accessibility. The hills are awful, the sidewalks are either sloped sideways, cracked or not wide enough for two-wheelers to pass each other. Add to that my hypermobility disorder, which means I get tendonitis, sprains and strains easily… so if the surface isn’t relatively flat, I end up hurting myself. I’ve realized that I need …
*insert dun dun duuuuuuun sounds*
… a scooter.
There is a huge amount of stigma with being the fatty on a scooter and, as much as I try to be a Fierce Fatty who doesn’t give a shit, I’m still a tenderhearted person who’s been bullied all my life for my weight. I’m still the person who is still struggling with a change in identity from “strong fatty” to “gimpy fatty”… and it’s a daily struggle, especially because I’m a physical activity scholar and I have to fight fatphobia, as well as justify my existence in the field, on a daily basis.
I’m trying to remind myself that the benefits outweigh the costs. I’m looking at this lightweight travel scooter that I can tuck discretely in my office without it screaming SCOOTER to everyone that passes by. I can get a cane or crutch holder on the back for when I want to stand. I will have the spoons to be able to do actual fun exercise instead of wasting my precious energy on ambulation. I will get to actually “walk” from my house to campus because it’s a little under a mile each way. I will be able to move my body through space at a pace that doesn’t make me want to injure other people!
The problem with a scooter is really the cost. Most insurance policies in the United States won’t cover a scooter that’s only used outside the home, so I’m left with trying to fundraise to try to be able to afford mobility equipment (which is probably better than when I used a student loan to buy my manual wheelchair, but more demoralizing). Walking is severely privileged in most societies, so deliberately choosing to walk less (especially as a fat person) is a difficult decision.
Honestly, I’m just hopeful for a time when I can get around without swearing like a sailor because of pain, my slow, gimpy gait, and disrespectful people!