Life on Wheels

Michael Perreault and Blaine Waterman talk to Bob Guter
about the pros and cons of rolling rather than walking, with photographs by Mark McBeth.


Bob: I think our topic is a good one for BENT because it combines the practical with the emotional in ways that most crip readers will recognize. Even guys who don't use a chair should find a lot to identify with here.

Let me begin by asking you, Blaine, how long you've been using some kind of motorized assist.

I've had a disability all my life and was walking with crutches from about the age of seven. But in the mid-90s my walking ability started to decrease. In fact it was decreasing for years before I really noticed. In the summer of 1997 I went on a trip to Santa Monica and was walking along the big boulevard there, when I realized for the first time that I couldn't walk the way I used to; I was exhausted after two blocks, which before would not have been a long walk for me. I think it was that fall when I applied for the insurance paperwork to get a motorized chair.

Bob: What kind of insurance do you have? Readers may be interested from a practical point of view.

Blaine: I have an HMO. Health Net is the exact name, although it might have been called something different at that point, because they keep merging every six months, but now it's called Health Net. They agreed to pay half the cost of a motorized chair and I had to cough up the rest. The total was $8000, which I ended up putting together from several sources: I used some of my own money, my brother gave me some money, and an aunt loaned me a bunch of money (which was nice, but I had to pay her back). I got the wheelchair in the spring of 1998, by which time I needed it even more than I had in the fall. The irony was that I had to say, for insurance purposes, that I could barely walk a block, which at the time was not literally true. By the time I got the wheelchair it was true. So I guess my statement was a . . .

Bob: A self-fulfilling prophecy?

Blaine: Later that fall I needed some surgery, which really, really pushed me over the edge, so I was a total wreck by the time the wheelchair came.

**Chair or Scooter, Bells and Whistles**

Bob: Do you use an electric wheelchair or a scooter?

Blaine: I was advised against getting a scooter by the people at Wheelchairs of Berkeley. They told me that scooters were more appropriate for people who make light use of the mobility device. They said a motorized chair was a much better choice.

Bob: When you got the chair, was it specially designed or modified for you at all, or is it an off-the-shelf model?

Blaine: My insurance refused to pay for most of the available options, so the only personalized features are a slightly wider seat and a back that angles at 110 degrees to account for my serious slouch.

Bob: I want to ask you in a few minutes how it's worked out and whether it's met your expectations, how it's changed you sense of mobility, but first I want to ask Michael to give us his account in parallel form.

I had been thinking about getting a power wheelchair for the last two to three years, but every time I would think about it, it seemed like too much of an effort, emotionally, to deal with all the stuff that goes along with it. Then along came the United Airlines bankruptcy, and I figured that I'd better think about getting the power chair while I still had a job and still had insurance. So it was the practical, financial aspect that motivated me to get going and do it.

I also realized that if I got a power chair I would eventually need a lift-equipped van, but that would have been a horrendous task to undertake all at once, because I barely could cope with the idea of the power wheelchair. I decided to break it down into pieces and just get the chair for starters, allow myself the chance to get used to the chair and adjusted to it, all of this before I had the critical need to have one.

I've been having trouble walking more than a half block without feeling very fatigued. Lower back pain has been on the increase, too. So about a half a block is as much as I can really walk comfortably, and that might finish me off for the rest of the day.

**Wheels in the Workplace**

Bob: There's an interesting wrinkle in your case because you have been using a power chair at work for how long?

Michael: A scooter. I've been using a scooter at work for the last eleven years because in some places the distance from my desk to my destination is a quarter of a mile.

Bob: It's like working in a warehouse.

Michael: Yeah, it's a mammoth maintenance center for United Airlines, where the distance I have to travel is the width of about five planes, wing-tip-to-wing-tip. When my boss wanted me to change functions at a certain point I told him I could do it only if provided access, and they got me a scooter.

Bob: Did United pay for it?

Michael: Yes, it's a company-owned piece of property that I get to use.

Bob: Has it proved satisfactory?

Michael: At first it was less reliable than I would have hoped, but it's been reliable for years now. More difficult was the adjustment period that involved people suddenly reacting very differently to me than they had before.

Bob: Why don't you go on and tell us about the more personal aspects of the transition and then I'll ask Blaine how using a chair has changed his relations at work.

Michael: When I was walking and using a cane I would have to be careful with every step; I was always looking at the floor and people were more or less obstacles in my path. Since I've had the scooter I've been able to make eye contact with people and smile and say hello and make passing comments, and I feel much more relaxed walking in the hallway.

Bob: Or rolling.

Michael: Or rolling. Well, yeah. The funny thing is that using the scooter at work makes things much easier than it ever was walking, but people think it's much harder for me.

Bob: In the scooter?!

Michael: Before the scooter, for example, people would never hold doors open for me, even if I was carrying things.

Bob: When you were walking, were you using any kind of aids at all?

Michael: Just my braces and my cane, but people were so used to seeing me that I became invisible. It's as if it took the scooter to make them realize that, "Yes. This guy is really disabled." Still, very few people responded appropriately, in my opinion, to what the scooter implied. I think probably less than five people said the equivalent of, "Gee! It's about time! You've needed that for a long time, haven't you? It really opens up possibilities in employment here."

Bob: How did you feel about that kind of comment?

Michael: I felt that that was real, that it was a meaningful recognition of genuine difficulties that had practical solutions. Whereas others—one woman I've been a passing acquaintance with for years—couldn't cope. The first time she saw me using the scooter I was backing onto the elevator when she was in it to leave work, and she bolted! Just because she couldn't cope with—well, I don't know what she couldn't cope with, but she just bolted. And I'd seen her so many times before and it wasn't a problem. A number of people, quite a few, would flatten themselves against the wall in the corridor, acting as if they were about to be hit. They did it in a humorous way, but I still didn't like it.

Bob: I guess there's only one possible response to that, "Up against the wall, able bodies."

Michael: Something like that. Yeah. And other people would make jokes about, "Can we have a ride?" Or, "Gee! You are so lucky to have that!"

Bob: Don't you think they were being humorous because they were uncomfortable by this transition of yours?

Michael: Sure. But I didn't like it anyway!

Bob: Blaine, has using a chair at work changed how you do your work, how people respond to you?

Blaine: In my case it didn't change things much, because I don't really use the chair at work. The distances at the library, where I work, are not that great, and for me to go and help people, which I do sometimes, get books or things off the shelf, it's harder to do in a wheelchair. So the wheelchair is not a big factor except in getting to and from work, where it's a very big factor.

Bob: Tell us about that.

Blaine: First let me tell you about the interpersonal aspects. Before the chair, when I was using forearm crutches, I was bent over and walking in a very different gait and style than most people are used to, so it was clear that I was disabled. Yet in stores or other places where I needed help, people would often not offer to help. Maybe they weren't sure what kind of help I needed. In the power wheelchair, people assume, I think, that I can do nothing. The irony is I'm less disabled in the wheelchair in most situations than I was on crutches, but I look more disabled to people that don't know me and they unhesitatingly offer me assistance, which by and large I prefer. I found that if you're having to ask people for help constantly and tell them what to do it's awkward.

I know that people's personalities are different, but I hated asking constantly, always fearing that someone might say no (which hardly ever happened). I did worry a little about what people at work would say, because to me it was such a big change. I was surprised that in my work situation, which as I've said was quite different from Michael's, there was essentially no reaction at all.

Bob: Did you have to ask for any kind of accommodation?

Blaine: We had to make sure that I got a big enough cubicle, because some are smaller and some are shared by two people, so I got a cubicle to myself, one large enough to be a convenient, safe place to leave my wheelchair.

Bob: Sounds like it was all very amiable, but just something that had to be paid attention to.

Blaine: Right. Right.

**The Feeling State**

Bob: Let me ask both of you, Michael first, to talk about the emotional aspect of making the transition from walking to rolling.

Michael: I found it to be very tough. I found the anticipation of getting my chair much harder than actually having it, at least so far—but I've only had it for six weeks now.

Bob: And Blaine, you've had yours for?

Blaine: Five years.

Michael: I've had my scooter at work for the last eleven years, but there it's different, because I encounter the same people all the time and I'm totally familiar with the layout. Once people get used to me and the scooter at work, most of them know how to handle it. Physically, too, there's not much that's unexpected. Everything is flat, the doors are fairly manageable for me to go through, and now, even with our fire drills and emergency evacuation plan, we have something figured out that works for me. At work I'm also very conscious that I can fall back on the ADA—in the back of my head I knew I had that to back me up.

In my personal life, though, in my own neighborhood, well, the ADA is still there, but that doesn't mean that everybody is implementing it or even aware of it, so I was very nervous about running into problems, going into restaurants, things like that . . .

Bob: What made you nervous about going into restaurants?

Michael: Just how big a deal it might be in terms of maneuvering through a crowded restaurant. There are so many restaurants here in San Francisco where the tables are close, the aisles are narrow, you're dealing with patrons standing around waiting, people leaving, people at the cashier, the wait-staff, all that sort of stuff—it's a lot to negotiate. And you're negotiating at half the height of other people.

Bob: Crotch height.

Michael: Crotch height.

Bob: Which can sometimes be an advantage, but not—

Michael: It depends on the crotch.

Bob: It—yes, thank you. I'll put that in italics.

Michael: So I had a lot of dread about it. And a lot of that dread comes also, I think, from the specifics about my polio experience; when I was growing up, everything was focused on surgery, therapy, rehab: "Walk by any means. But walk. Walk. Walk."

Bob: Rehabilitate yourself.

Michael: Yes. Be as normal as possible. And being normal meant to walk, no matter if you had to carry around an extra twenty pounds of braces and all that other crap. I was raised in an environment where being in a wheelchair was the kiss of death. It meant defeat.

Bob: And using a chair would have emphasized how different you were from everybody else, whereas the goal of rehabilitation was to try to pass and be as like everybody else as you could be.

Michael: Right.Yeah. Yeah. And even if you don't succeed you get points as long as you bust your ass trying.

Bob: Trying, even if it's foolish after a certain point, makes you heroic in the eyes of the normals.

Michael: Right. Heroic! I also know that when the post-polio first hit me twenty years ago I had some of the same dread about joining a pool and going swimming, about admitting that I was becoming more disabled. And so this whole wheelchair thing is a fresh symbol of so much that has brought me pain in my life.

**Pleasures and Drawbacks**

Bob: We're talking about the social interface between disability and the world we have to live with on a daily basis. We might think we've become pretty well socialized with disability, then all of a sudden we discover a piece of equipment that can be life enhancing also has its drawbacks. Let's talk to Blaine about that, and then I want to hear more about what has happened to you as you began to use your chair, Michael.

Blaine, it's become evident that the chair hasn't had much impact on your work life. Has it had much effect on your social life, things like restaurants, shopping, movies?

Blaine: The wheelchair presents a lot of hassles and potential problems; frankly, it's less fun than I expected it to be. I didn't have the same resistance that Michael did. I had some apprehension, but not much resistance, partly because of how shocked I was by how quickly I had gone downhill physically. Now, eight years later, I'm still not sure why I deteriorated so fast, or if I have much chance of every reversing it if I want to try. I'm gonna start trying, I'm gonna start working with a physical therapist at home, mostly because my back really hurts, and the back and the leg stuff is all kind of related. But anyway I'm tangentching.

Bob: It's a good tangentch!

Blaine: That physical deterioration was one reason I moved to Berkeley. I thought it would be more manageable, but I realized after a few months that even Berkeley was not small enough for me. I mean, if you can barely walk comfortably for two or three blocks, even a small town is too much for you to handle. So that was the bitter and scary truth I was coping with in the summer and fall of '97. The move was OK for its own reasons, but it was no solution to my mobility problems. Because of all this, my initial feelings about the wheelchair were very, very positive. Suddenly I could go faster than I'd ever gone in my life. Even in my best years I was never a fast walker, but in the wheelchair I'm rolling down the sidewalk at six miles an hour. It felt euphoric. It was really pleasurable to be able to go somewhere fast! Fast! And go a long way and not get tired. And faster than other people!

Bob: I can hear the pleasure of it in the telling.

Blaine: I felt safer, too. I'm not that steady walking and somebody could easily just practically baby-tap me and knock me over and take my money. In fact I was mugged a couple of times. Even though I wasn't hurt or pushed over, that was becoming more of a fear—that I was vulnerable to that. I'll concede that I've come down a bit from my initial high. While I still enjoy having a wheelchair (and now I don't think I could live without one) I've found it more of a limitation than I expected at first. Even in Berkeley and Oakland and San Francisco, which are more progressive and probably more accessible than many parts of the country, barriers abound. I've noticed that my choice of where to go and what to do is circumscribed by the wheelchair. Of course my earlier limitations also circumscribed things, so it's . . .

Michael: Different!

Blaine: Exactly! I've noticed, for example, that I tend to go to the same restaurants over and over. Why? Because I don't want to deal with a new place and its potential hassles. I occasionally push through that fear if I really want to go somewhere.

Bob: That's interesting to hear you say, because I realized a couple of years ago that one of the reasons I get anxious when I go on vacation is because I'm leaving my tightly circumscribed little village. Obviously I go all over the city at times, but, like you, I tend to do things repeatedly in a very small area. I know that even then some people see me for the first time, and yet I feel more comfortable, because there are lots of people who are seeing me for the 500th time, especially in shops and stores. When I'm in a new environment my anxiety rises because I feel like I'm on display, I feel . . .

Blaine: Exposed.

Bob: That's right. Michael? Does any of what Blaine said ring a bell with you?

Michael: Oh, absolutely! That's why I'm glad I got the power chair the way I did, before I had to have it. Since it's not a crisis, I can start learning to deal with my anxiety on my own schedule. I can make up my mind if I want to try going someplace in the chair, or I can still drive, find a place to park and walk in, that kind of thing, so at this point l have some flexibility.

I've been thinking about why Blaine had less trouble adjusting to a wheelchair than I did. I believe that the easier it is to pass as less disabled, the harder it becomes to admit that your disability is worsening. It then becomes harder still to take action that will improve your situation (like using a wheelchair) if that action makes you look more disabled. An analogy might be how difficult it is for some "straight-acting" gay men to admit their gayness and be less judgmental of fems than it is for "queenie" guys who are obvious in the first place.

I also know that new situations cause me anxiety. That's probably why my life is so small; it's also why so many of my friends don't realize the impact my disability has on my life. Because my life is small and I've learned how to manage it fairly well without needing a great deal of help from anybody, people looking at me can say, "It's just Michael being Michael and it's no big deal." But as soon as I'm in a brand new environment (like your vacation example) the stress level quadruples, particularly if I'm in any kind of need or trouble.

**Transport Terrors**

Bob: It seems like you're operating in a hybrid situation now. You have the chair, but you don't have a van, so you can use the chair in your immediate and somewhat larger neighborhood and if you can find public transportation that is truly adequately accessible you can use it in a larger sphere, but if you want to go on a little day trip you're screwed, because then you can't use your chair. Have you gotten used to a radius that's comfortable?

Michael: Not yet! I discovered in the last six weeks just how many curb cuts actually exist in this city. You'll find that the major intersections generally have the minimum cuts, but the little streets in between often have none, and then you have the city coming along tearing up the sidewalk, and people parking cars across the sidewalk, and steep driveways where you're likely to tip over! With obstacles like those I find myself having to wheel out into the street, where my view is blocked, which is really scary.

Bob: How about public transportation in San Francisco?

Michael: Hah! A couple of weeks ago when a friend found one of the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) elevators broken, she tried to call it in but discovered that BART had turned the phone off because . . . the elevator wasn't working!

Blaine: At least with BART all the platforms are uniform and that never changes. The situation with Muni (San Francisco's municipal public transportation system) is more complex because it involves underground and surface vehicles, light rail and buses. When you roll into car in your wheelchair say, once it leaves the subway station, that area becomes stairs on one side or the other of the car. But in Muni light rail vehicles, a side of the car turns into a set of stairs. So you can tip and fall into the door, and I did that a number of times, no matter how careful I was. Eventually I started to park in the aisle where that couldn't happen, even if I was inconveniencing other passengers.

Bob: In general, do other passengers become impatient if you're having difficulty?

Blaine: It depends on the situation. With BART things are engineered so your chair just can't be thrown. But Muni's variety of trolleys, buses, light rail vehicles—almost all of them require heavy involvement by the driver/operator to secure the chair. Many a driver is unenthusiastic at best about this part of his job. I've found that when the driver is doing her best to be cooperative, the other passengers are more likely to be good-natured about the whole operation.

Bob: I want to ask both of you how you see things changing in the future for you when you use your chairs. Are you going to be using your chairs differently? You talked about living in a very small world. Is the chair going to make the world larger?

Michael: For me it already has to some degree. I have been taking it to places that I avoided in the past, because parking was such a problem.

Bob: Example?

Michael: My recovery group meetings. There's one two blocks from me. Two blocks is too far for me to walk.

Bob: Is it accessible?

Michael: The meeting place? Yes. Well, not really good, but accessible, so I've been able to resume going to meetings to the point where I could volunteer to be treasurer, which requires me to show up every week for the next six months, so there's that. And I was able to go to your house without having to think about parking and walking up the hill, the chair can do that, and I feel a lot more secure.

**Sidewalk Etiquette**

Bob: Don't you think that all of these practical considerations must have a lot to do with how you interact with people socially, in public? I mean, when you are walking, you as a walker are expected to move with other walkers, whereas pedestrians are expected to react to you when you're in a chair.

Michael: Some do and some don't.

Bob: That's what I mean. But the whole dynamic must be different.

Michael: Some people are considerate, some seem oblivious to . . .

Bob: Do you have a horn?

Michael: Not yet. But I may get one.

Blaine: I did have one, but it was hard to keep attached! I've learned the trick of making strange noises, because if I say something people often don't hear me—my voice doesn't project well in my normal range. Sometimes I'll cough loudly, which can startle people, or I'll just pretend to be singing to myself and people will hear me and move.

Bob: Good strategy.

Blaine: A horn might be fun, but it's part of a larger strategy problem. As a wheelchair user you need to make pedestrians aware of you without startling them or making them angry. I've learned that when you're behind somebody they may be blissfully unaware of you. I may be really frustrated with them, but in fairness they don't even know I'm there. And so for me to just yell "Out of my way, Motherfucker!"—which is what I feel like doing sometimes—well, if I were them I wouldn't appreciate that! So I think it's a matter of treading the middle ground, not rolling behind somebody at a ridiculously slow pace, burning with resentment, and yet not self-righteously terrorizing other people just to get where you need to go.

Bob: Sounds like there's a whole area of chair/pedestrian etiquette that's everybody's responsibility.

Michael: Oh! Yeah!

**Politics, Personal and Practical**

Bob: Let me ask you both what I think of as an overtly political question, and let me frame it by giving you an example. I have a friend who uses a scooter and who also uses crutches, like you, Blaine. Although she can get into certain places when on crutches, she has adopted the policy that if the place of public accommodation isn't accessible, and even if she can get out of her scooter to get in, she will not do so, on principle. Michael, maybe it's too soon for you to have thought much about this, but do either of you have any feelings about it?

Michael: I live between two worlds. Sometimes it's as confusing to me as it must be to those watching me. Someone is holding a door open for me and as soon as I get through the door I stop the scooter and get out and I imagine people wondering, "Hmm, what do we do about this?" I'm still trying to figure out the practical/political implications, but I think I'm probably more inclined to adopt your friend's point of view.

In one restaurant where I was already known as a walking customer I showed up in my new chair. Because I wanted to sit at a table like I always have, the first thing I asked when they saw me come in (they looked rather shocked, by the way) was, "Can I park this somewhere out of the way, like, you know, so I can go to a table?" They were prepared to remove chairs from a table for me, but they said, "Sure!"

Other people who see me, people in my apartment building, for example, their eyes widen and they ask, "Oh! What's happened?! Is this, is this permanent?" And I'll answer, "No. It's part-time."

Blaine: But, but permanently part-time!

Michael: And they don't know what to do with that, you know, it sort of takes them a few seconds to go through that process. Just last week I ran into a friend who uses a chair at one of those restaurants where you read the menu while you're standing at the counter. He was on his way out, I was on my way in, and the only place to exchange greetings was smack in the middle where everybody was standing. I was very conscious that we were really in the way! I had to do some immediate self-support talk, like saying, "It's OK to be in the way. Other people are standing and chatting with each other. They are as much in the way, in their way, as I am in their way in my way!

Bob: That's a tough one for me. As a gimpy walker, I'm hyper-self-conscious about being in the way. Blaine how do you feel about that? Do you have the same sense of sometimes being in the way?

Blaine: You know, theoretically and philosophically I would always say, Sure it's okay to be in the way. Depending on my mood, depending on how hostile the people around me seem, I sometimes stand up for myself like Michael does, while at other times I mosey along, trying to avoid attracting unfriendly attention.

Michael: It's very much situational, and to me that's where the anxiety comes from. I don't have a set of rules that, you know, other people can take for granted. When it comes to "sidewalk etiquette," I've walked around the city so little for years now that I don't know what it's like to be a pedestrian anymore, even a "rolling pedestrian."

Bob: Maybe it's an exaggerated version of how I always feel in San Francisco: when I'm a pedestrian I hate drivers, and when I'm a driver I loathe pedestrians, but I'm really both all the time.

**Advice for the First-Time Chair Buyer**

Let's try to wrap things up by my asking you this. If you were going to advise someone who is in the transitional mode of thinking, "Gee, I'm not getting around so well anymore. I'm really thinking about using a chair," what would you say to this person?

Blaine: First of all, I would suggest that you assess your overall situation. I regret that I didn't do more to stop or reverse the decline that put me in a wheelchair. With Michael it's not an issue, he has no choice about it, but cerebral palsy is not a degenerative disease, it's not a necessary part of the pattern that I should have ended up in a chair.

Now that I've been in one for several years and I've experienced both the pluses and the minuses, I regret that I didn't work more aggressively on my body and try to achieve a more balanced situation between walking and rolling. And like I said earlier I am actually going to start working with a PT, because I don't have the discipline to do these things myself.

Michael: Very few of us do.

Blaine: Very few of us do—I mean it's really hard. I can't see any scenario where I would give up the wheelchair, because there are so many pluses, but there are many reasons why it's preferable to walk at least some of the time. It's better for your body and it's easier psychologically in some circumstances.

Bob: I imagine many things at home are easier if you don't have to use the chair, which might be cumbersome unless your house is specially designed.

Blaine: Right. And the other thing that I'd say, for people like Michael and me who are planning on getting a chair but who will be walking part of the time: evaluate the details carefully. I figured I could always bring my crutches with me, which turns out with my particular model of wheelchair not to be realistic. There's no good way to fasten them, because the battery pack extends so far out in the back. So ask about all these details before you invest in a chair.

Bob: That's something I'd never thought about. Depending on the user there are probably many details like that to keep in mind.

Blaine: Yeah. Well I didn't think about it until it was too late.

Bob: Michael, advice from you for the prospective wheelchair user?

Michael: If you have the luxury, take the process slowly. You can rent scooters, you can rent wheelchairs. Rent one for a week, try it out, let all the feelings come up but don't judge them. Then let the whole experience settle for a while. I also talked to a lot of people who use wheelchairs. The problem for me was that most of them have no choice, so for them it's been liberating, while I don't necessarily view this as liberating.

For me it comes down to increasing my choices. When I got my chair I did ask for a cane and crutch holder, and the other thing I asked for was a lock, because if I'm gonna get out of that chair and leave it outside to go into a store, I don't want the damn thing stolen.

Bob: Does yours have a lock, Blaine?

Blaine: It does have a lock, but that was another thing that never occurred to me originally, so I had to arrange for it after the fact. I learned that you don't leave a wheelchair unattended even for a very short time, because people can, will, and do steal them. They have a market value.

Bob: I think that that last observation was a kind of summing up of sorts. Is there anything that I didn't ask you that you want to talk about?

Michael: Remember that the chair needs to be chosen for the person using it and the environment where it's going to be used. I got the narrowest chair I could find and still I can't get into my bathroom or turn around in my kitchen. Right now I don't need the chair to move around in my apartment, but remember that it's an expensive piece of equipment and you want to get the biggest bang for your buck. So again, that means think through the process. Be mindful about all the different things you might want to do.

Blaine: I'll second what Michael said about being thoughtful. I bought a condo last September with my partner Greg. Only afterwards did I learn that it will be difficult and maybe impossible to make it fully accessible, given various laws and the way my condo complex is laid out. For example, from a layperson's point of view it looks like there's plenty of room to build a ramp to the back stairs, but after consulting with a couple of contractors, I discovered it might not be feasible.

Bob: How do you get in and out with your chair?

Blaine: I have to park it in a shed that I had built, which is not completely weatherproofed. It's OK, but far from ideal. So I would reiterate what Michael said: Be careful. Here I am, Mr. Crip Know It All, yet I failed to get enough details to fully protect myself. If I had been somebody who couldn't walk at all, or if that happens to me in the future, I'll be in a bit of a pickle. If you live in a situation where you don't have complete freedom of what you do with the property, be very careful with accessibility, because you can get burned.

Bob: That's a useful closing comment. It's like saying The chair giveth and the chair taketh away and you'd better be careful about your expectations and your planning.

Despite all the ground we've covered I keep thinking of more questions I want to ask. Here's an important one: What do you do if you are with disabled friends who don't use chairs and have trouble keeping up with you? Maybe we can ask BENT readers to respond to that one, since I think we're out of time. We're certainly out of tape.

Thanks to both of you for a valuable discussion.


© 2003 Bob Guter, Michael Perreault, Blaine Waterman
Photographs © 2003 Mark McBeth, IDEA|MONGER



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Michael Perreault and Blaine Waterman have both written for BENT. Bob Guter edits BENT. Mark McBeth is BENT's creative and technical adviser.


BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/July 2003