Can Do

It was the end of my first class of Tai Chi. My arms that were generally tense from constant use of wheeling and crutching were more relaxed than they had ever been in the last two years. My overactive mind had calmed down and the tension in my neck and shoulders had completely disappeared.

I suppose the instructor set the tone from the very beginning. He greeted me with both a handshake and a hug and didn’t shy away from mentioning how I used to be able to kick him in the head. (I had always been quite proud of that ability.) All the Tai Chi movements could be done sitting or standing and there was almost no modification at all for me. I didn’t get strange looks or lingering stares. I was in a Tai Chi class with other people who were also in a Tai Chi class. That was it.

At the end of class, I wanted to talk to the instructor about a movement and thank him again in person. He said that he was glad that I came and I looked at him and said, “Thank you for letting me come. People tend to have some issues with the whole wheelchair thing.”

And he looked confused for a moment, as if I had said the most ridiculous thing. “Anything can be accommodated.” He stated it as if it were pure fact.

And I think it is and was and will be.

I slept better that night than I have in weeks and the next morning, I realized that up until now my thoughts have been filled with ‘well I can’t do that’ or ‘they won’t let me do that’ or ‘I don’t know if I can do that’. Growing up I had always been told that you can do whatever you can put your mind to. I think I need to take that saying and combine it with the ‘Anything can be accommodated’ saying, because I’ve been my own worst enemy for the last year.

I’ve despaired of looking for jobs because I thought all I could do was an office job and I found out quickly during an internship that the only thing I do in an office is count down the hours from the minute I get there to the minute I leave. I’ve always preferred hands on type work and moving around. I thought that I couldn’t do clothing retail because I wouldn’t be able to reach things on the top racks. I thought that I couldn’t do restaurant work because I couldn’t walk and carry a tray at the same time. I thought I couldn’t do physical labor type jobs because I use a wheelchair.

The thing is, I can do these jobs. I can do clothing retail; they have those hook poles for the short people to reach things, I’ll just need one more often than other employees. I can do restaurant work if I just put the tray on my lap. I can do some physical labor jobs because I can lift about thirty or forty pounds AND move it somewhere depending on the size and bulk. I’m not limited to stuffy office jobs where fidgeting is frowned upon. The only things these jobs require is a small bit of accommodation and accessibility that should already exist.

And so, for the first time in two years, I’ve begun applying at jobs that I never would have thought I had a chance at. I’ve applied at restaurants, as an assistant, and am looking into a few retail jobs. In one day, I applied to four jobs, not because I direly need a job, but because I was reminded that I most certainly could apply to four jobs. In a second day, I applied to two more and set up an interview.

Chances are, none of the jobs are expecting a wheelchair user to apply, nor do I see reason to tell them (they’ll find out on their own). Chances are, I’ll have a difficult time convincing these jobs that I can do the work. But I don’t care because I’ve remembered that I can do things and eventually I’ll find the job that recognizes that as well.

Anything can be accommodated.

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One Response to Can Do

  1. During the Vietnam era, my father was friends with a guy who was wheelchair-bound from polio. The draft board kept sending notices to my father’s friend, who kept responding with “I’m in a wheelchair, whaddaya want me to do?” The draft board’s response basically boiled down to “Yeah, right, heard that one before.” After about the fourth notice, my father and his friend decided to take the bull by the horns. They dressed my father’s friend up in his best suit, and took him down to the recruiting office. They took one look at him, said “Sorry, our mistake”, and never bothered my father’s friend again.

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