When I went home, I made a sandwich for dinner and ate it with an apple and some chips. I did not feel that I even wanted to try to cook anything or do dishes afterward.
Taking a shower that night was challenging. I thought I would just stand in the shower with my left leg resting on the floor outside the tub, but then I realized I had a "cast" on my right arm that I could not get wet. I ended up wrapping both simulated casts with plastic trash bags so I wouldn't get them wet. I still ended up getting a considerable amount of water on the bathroom floor. Just before going to bed, I removed the elastic bandages. Being disabled for one day was enough.
What surprised me most about the experience was the difficulty of even the simplest tasks. I had not realized how often I needed two hands to do something until I only had the use of one. I was surprised at how difficult it was to brush my teeth, use the bathroom, eat, write, and drive only using my left hand. I expected that the walker would present the greatest challenges and I was right about that. Navigating stairs, crowded hallways, and icy streets and sidewalks were difficult and I was continually worried that I might fall. Since my right wrist was already bandaged, I was concerned about how I might brace myself in a fall and whether I would incur a real injury.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that people were helpful. Every time I needed a door opened, it seemed as though someone was there to do it for me. In a few instances, people got a bit impatient when they were stuck behind me in a crowded space. I was not able to move very fast and I could see, when they finally got past me, they looked a little annoyed. I did not have to ask anyone to do anything extraordinary to help me. It was easy for people to open doors for me and let me pass through ahead of them. No one offered to carry books for me, though, and it would have been nice to have some help with that. My friends joked a bit about my helplessness. I do not believe they would have done that if I were permanently disabled, but because I appeared injured and because they thought it would be temporary, they felt free to make fun of me! One of my friends tended to be overly solicitous, and I believe I would find that annoying if it continued over a long period of time.
Reflections on the Experience
The one-day experience simulating disabilities provided insight into the lives of individuals who must face numerous challenges each day. There were so many actions that I realized I took for granted. Under normal circumstances I do many things without a great deal of thought and planning. Even driving a car has become automatic for me and typically does not require much thought. Everything I did throughout the day required conscious effort and planning. I felt a bit more tired than usual at the end of the day because of extra effort I had to expend getting through my normal routines.
I think that, with practice, there would be certain daily activities that would become easier to manage. I could eventually learn to eat and write with my left hand, for example. Perhaps, with a permanent disability, I could have some modifications made to my car that would enable me to manage one-handed. I would guess that such modifications would be expensive, however.
Some activities would not be easier no matter how much practice I had. Navigating stairs with a walker would always be dangerous. I was fortunate to have found myself in situations where people were helpful and considerate, but it would have been very difficult to open heavy outer doors if I had found myself alone. It was difficult to manage a stack of books, the money in my wallet, my meals, and the fasteners on my clothing with one hand. If I were permanently disabled, I would have to learn how to do these things but to some extent they would always present some challenges.
I wish more people would take the opportunity to try this experiment. It provides real insight into the daily struggles some people face. I looked with new awareness at doorways, hallways, stairs and elevator access. I believe I will be more aware of people with disabilities, treating them with respect and offering to help when needed without being patronizing. This experiment provided an excellent means to understand the physical and emotional challenges of the disabled.