I have 2 herniated discs and have been in a wheelchair for 6 months. In this time I have seen first hand some of the struggles handicapped and disabled people face. I have gotten looks, people who don’t understand the handicapped stall is for handicapped only, and employees who get upset when I make them open the handicap register. I have seen people bump into me and not be sorry, literally jump over my legs instead of going around me, and people complain that I get to “cut” the line (when the aisles are so narrow I can’t even sit in line). I have been in places that claim to “gladly help” disabled, yet the employees do nothing to accommodate me to go into the store to look for items. I have rolled out of stores because they don’t want to let someone come into the dressing rooms to help me try things on. And this has only been 6 months, and it is temporary. I really feel for people who have been alienated their whole life because of something that they can’t control. This doesn’t make anyone less of a person if anything, it makes them more amazing because having to do what people do everyday they do in a wheelchair. There are laws to make sure that disabled people are not discriminated but these laws are definitely not implemented.
Adapting to being in a wheelchair when you’re older is more difficult, I think, than it is if you’ve lived with a disability all your life.
The truth is, things are hard. Learning to assert yourself is difficult. Know, though, that you are completely within your rights to stand up for yourself, if you feel comfortable doing so.
There is nothing wrong with asking, “Excuse me? Could you reach this for me?” or “Do you have anyone available who could help me shop?” and “Where are the accessible fitting rooms?” Until you feel comfortable, perhaps, bring a friend or family member with you who will help you reach and carry things, who will be willing to help you try things on. “Accessible” is not always accessible, as you are no doubt learning.
If you need anyone to talk to or have questions about adapting, or anything, really, let me know. I’d love to help if I can.