I quote “disabled” because I don’t actually call myself disabled nor do I think of myself that way in any regard. I have the mind, spirit and fierceness of a runner and a fighter. I also have the fortune of doing a lot with myself despite the outcome of my prognosis. With some creativity, I do things in my own way. However, society doesn’t also see it this way, and in many ways this has served in my favor. Here is a list of reasons why the bogus label of my condition has positively impacted my life.
Since last April, I’ve been using NYC’s paratransit service, Access-a-Ride. The driver picks me up and drops me off anywhere I’d like, as long as it’s in any of NYC’s five boroughs. It’s basically a cab for $2.75, the same price as a bus or subway. If I’m lucky, Access-a-Ride sometimes pays for an Uber to drive me around. This all means no more paying for expensive Ubers and taxis (for now). The feeling of being driven to Brooklyn or Manhattan from miles away in Queens for so cheap or free has never been so conveniently liberating.
Of course, there are always drawbacks. It’s always a hit or miss. There are times when Access-a-ride will pay for some fancy limo to drive me home directly to my destination. OR they will pick me up in a freezing cold van and pick up or drop off other people while I’m shivering for hours. Sometimes I sit in the van for over two hours. Also, there are times the driver comes late, putting me at risk of missing an appointment. And I’m required to schedule all my trips at least 24 hours in advance. That being said, this service only works for me when there’s a consistency in my schedule, such as going to work. When things come up last second, I take the train. Taking the train is always a good excuse to stay active and energetic.
Speaking of work, Acess-a-Ride has allowed me to work in a cool part of Brooklyn 30 hours a week for the past three months. Had I not been disabled, working there would have never been an option. Although I’m still capable of taking the train, the commute for even a non-disabled person would be well over 2 hours from where I live.
I also take a luxury taxi service to physical therapy two to three times a week. Medicaid pays for a fancy black car with cushiony seats to drive me to and from my destination. Although this service is only used for medical purposes, they have been able to drive me directly to my job in Brooklyn from therapy in Long Island.
Last February, I decided to see one of my favorite comedians, Trevor Noah live. Tickets are free, but there is no guarantee of admission. My friend Racky and I arrived 3 hours prior to the show, waiting on line in the freezing cold February weather. When the guard saw me standing out there in crutches, he allowed me and Racky to cut the line and walk in with VIP. Not only that, but he led us to the first row. The stage was only an inch away from us. We saw Trevor Noah’s sweat and everything. After waving his goodbyes to the audience after the show, he locked eyes with both of us. Our hearts were exploding.
3. First Class Emirates and skipping airplane lines
Oh yes, talk about luxury in the skies. After being discharged from the hospital in Thailand, I got to skip every security line while being wheeled by the Thai police on my way to flying First Class with Emirates. What an experience. Throughout the entire 24-hour flight, I was served endless glasses of champagne, wine and Arabic coffee from a genie’s lantern. My chair reclined all the way back into a bed and I was able to close the door and raise the walls so that I had my own private room. However, I didn’t want to close myself off for too long; otherwise I would’ve misses out on all the 5 star meals and vegan deserts served throughout the whole trip. I was even given a free Bulgari bag.
I will probably never have this experience again unless I marry an old rich guy. But I still get way better service when I travel in general. When I’m boarding an airplane, the handicapped are always treated as first priority. Never in my life have I entered a completely empty plane. It’s not like I get to choose my own seat or anything, but it’s always a nice feeling to not be pushed and squeezed by other passengers when boarding a plane.
When else in my life have I had a perfect excuse to walk around in LED lights? Clearly these walking devices serve more than just getting me aroud. They are part of my fashion. They bring out personality and unique characteristics.
I get to shine my lights that change colors when I head out to clubs. I’m like a human disco ball.
Lately I’ve been walking around with these two wooden engraved sticks that I got in a Walmart-type store in the Berkshires, MA for only $4 each. But people don’t need to know that. I can just pretend that they were gifts from the Shamanic Spirits.
Okay I don’t actually use this, apparently I need some type of card for it to prove that I’m disabled (because the visuals of my impairments are clearly not enough), but definitely something I want to consider.
6. Medical Marijuana
I haven’t tried this either because I’m so used to the stuff on the streets, but I do qualify for it in New York. Something to keep in mind.