Reading time: 4 minutes
It’s not every morning I look in the mirror and wink at myself. I was feeling particularly great. I dressed up more than usual, great contrast to my average engineering outfit of pants and a t-shirt.
While I was living in Appleton, working at Kimberly-Clark, and a co-worker told me about an event going on at the local college. It was a book talk, the type of fireside chat an author might do when promoting a newly published book.
The author was Brad Smith, which sounds like the most average name ever, but he’s the president of Microsoft, which makes him someone that I want to listen to. I take any opportunity to be around people like him or the type of people that go to listen to him.
My colleague ended up not being able to go, so I had to go alone, which was fine because going alone places means that I can do more of my own thing.
I’m the type of person who always likes to have a plan, which can include winging-it and having no plan, but I plan for that. Now I have to plan a bit more because of being in a wheelchair. When I was signing up for this event – free for students – I emailed the event coordinator and mentioned that I’ll be in a wheelchair. She mailed back with instructions on where to park and where to go after.
Something worth highlighting is that this was an event free for students and that I am, but not of this school. I doubt they intended any student who was in the area to be able to attend for free, but while signing up online, it only asked about being a student and didn’t specify where.
I read through the instructions twice, washed behind my ears, and left early. If I’m not early, I’m late. Something can always go wrong, or an opportunity may arise, either way, I’d like to handle both without anxiety driven haste.
After I park, I head over to the building the talk will be at. It’s right next to a main road with a good bit of traffic. This is one of those campuses with building scattered around and mixed in with city streets and random buildings.
I go up to the main door, it opens, and I go in. But then there’s another set of doors right after, and right after that is a set of stairs. Nothing I can’t handle, just a few. I go to open the second door and it’s locked. Alright, so I go out and go around to the other side of the building and find another set of doors. Glass doors, so I can see through them and what I saw was just a bigger set of stairs just a meter after the doors. But I can see that at the top of the stairs and past another set of doors (double doors again) are people that look like helpers for the event.
I look to my right and see a ramp, I follow it with my eyes and discover that it leads to this building.
A benefit of living in America is the ADA, which means that every place has to be accessible. This is a public college, so it definitely has to be accessible, and I’m able to do a lot more than most people, so all I need is a sturdy handrail alongside some stairs and I can manage.
As soon as I make eye contact with the ramp, I see yellow caution tape blocking people from entering. I go over to inspect. The ramp goes up and then turns to the right, I can’t see past it, but from what I can see, the ramp looks fine. Smooth concrete all the way up.
I duck down and go into the danger zone. A lot of times people don’t clean up after themselves, and I reckoned that this was the same as when I drive down the road and see a “work zone ahead” sign, only to find a completed job and no construction.
I go up the ramp and turn right. The smooth concrete comes to an end, and the only thing left is a whales mouth ready to swallow me whole. I analyze it, hoping to think of a way that I could get around, after all, I can do anything.
Alas, I decide to turn around and figure out another way. As I’m coming down the ramp, I get to the caution tape and duck under it, but instead of bending forward, I get a rather silly and have some fun, I lean backward and limbo under the tape. It’s a bit lower than I can bend back because my backrest is too high. In my efforts, I tip myself back too far and then completely.
I made it under the tape, but I also found myself on the ground and out of the wheelchair. This was back when I didn’t wear the seatbelt.
I’m surprised no one from the road honked or even drove up onto the campus to help – a grandma would probably do something like that.
The chair didn’t fly out of reach, but it was on its side. I pulled it near me, grabbed the handrail from the ramp, and lifted myself back into the chair. And then put my seatbelt on.
That was probably the fastest I’ve ever had a fall and recover. I didn’t hesitate, I acted and got back up within a minute, probably faster. The first thing I checked was for any damage to my stunning outfit.