RA Daydreams: A World Without Stairs

RA Daydreams: A World Without Stairs

Living with rheumatoid arthritis can feel like a nightmare, which sometimes leads me to daydream about things that would make this journey a little easier.

It’s an achy morning. I haven’t ever fully loosened up, it was a chore to shower, dress, and put on shoes, all while contending with toddlers underfoot, and now I am trying to walk into the school where I work as quickly as I can while still treating my swollen joints gingerly. I finally make it into the building, clock in, and then see . . . the stairs. Having an office on the lower level, I have to start every workday going down a couple dozen steps. Once the day is underway, my job generally requires me to go up and down those stairs anywhere from one to three times an hour. On a good day, I view these stairs as a bit of exercise. However, on a bad day, the stairs become a huge hurdle, their ascent something I steel myself for with a couple of deep breaths before approaching. Hence, I begin daydreaming about a world without stairs.

In my fantasy world without stairs, there are elevators distributed liberally throughout all multi-level buildings. One never has to walk a long detour to access one. These imagined elevators are fast, preventing anyone from waiting long to board, yet are incredibly smooth and never jar joints when stopping or leaving a floor. Another feature is a cushioned ledge that runs the circumference of the elevator, perfect for perching on during those days where standing is painful, and is high enough so that one doesn’t have the strain of sinking into and rising from a fully seated position. And while I’m dreaming, I’ll go ahead and add some ambient music and artwork. No, I don’t mean the “elevator music” everyone dreads, but rather some pleasant, subtle, non-cheesy tunes to fill the silence and remove the awkwardness that can accompany shared, enclosed spaces. The walls feature landscapes of open, spacious vistas to combat any claustrophobia. Heck, I’ll go ahead and complete the fantasy with fresh air pumped in, maybe even with a little extra oxygen in it to combat the fatigue of RA, so that upon exiting one feels more refreshed than 30 seconds earlier.

Another common feature in my dream world without stairs is inclined moving sidewalks. Boarding an escalator can be tricky, especially when limping or walking with a cane. The inclined moving sidewalks, like those in IKEA stores, are easier to step onto and they do away with the physical jolt through arthritic joints that missing perfect timing while stepping on an escalator can cause. These inclined moving sidewalks are easy to use even with luggage, a shopping cart, or children in tow.

My dream world without stairs is filled with relieved, calm faces. There are no people in wheelchairs going far off course in search of a sidewalk curb cutout. There are no disabled or elderly people precariously teetering with walkers or canes while attempting to navigate stairs. There are no parents with little ones in strollers contemplating whether to forge ahead with stairs or find an alternate route. And there are no people with arthritis slowly taking one stair at a time, both feet briefly pausing while level before taking the next step. Instead, moving from one level to another is fluid, easy, and pain-free.

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