Is Heaven Wheelchair-Accessible?

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by Thomas King

One of the hardest things about life is recognizing its various parts. I mean, we never really notice pregnant women until our wife becomes one, or the plight of the handicapped until we break an ankle or leg, and crutches help us see more clearly.

Ten years after my mother's stroke, my own vision regarding just how tough it is to be handicapped is still taking shape. The physical problems of stroke victims have been well documented. However, these are compounded by the physical restrictions of society. The retail stores, apartments, public buses, etc. with no access for wheelchairs.

My mother wanted simply to enter one such store here in San Francisco but the doorway entrance was too narrow, blocked by rows of sale items. The owner gave a patronizing smile and said, "Sorry, no wheelchairs." What about mothers? Aren't they allowed? And why is he sorry - he knowingly breaks the law and he's sorry? It's like the Klan apologizing before burning a black church.

I was on a bus last week and nobody - NOBODY - would offer their seat to a blind man with his dog. An "Information Age" with the wrong information. Haven't seen many handicapped kids on MTV lately either. Or in Vogue, or Playboy. Or at Macy's. There's plenty of primetime murder and adultery, but nobody wants to see the effects of a televised stroke or illness. Mortality, or at least human pain and suffering, is just not sexy, I suppose.

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