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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 and 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.

Rheumatoid arthritis and stairs

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.

A dream world without stairs

An abundance of elevators

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.

Achieving all-around comfort

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.

Inclined moving sidewalks

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.

Accommodations for everyone

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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Anita
    5 years ago

    Preaching to the choir, my friend. I’m currently housebound because of the stairs in my split-entry style house. My bad knees and ankles made stairs hard to manage, but still do-able. But now, the RA in my neck caused pressure on the nerves, leading to muscle weakness and numbness in the extremities. I recently had disk replacement surgery, but recovery is slow, so whenever I have to leave the house for doctor’s appointments, I call the EMTs to haul me out in a special chair designed to be carried up and down stairs.

    I am getting stair lifts installed soon, but it’s so frustrating to have to depend on others for simple things. Thank god for online shopping (though I still need someone to fetch and carry the packages into the house). I also can’t visit a lot of friends due to the stairs in their homes. I am fortunate to be able to work from home, but it would be nice to leave the house more than once every few months.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    5 years ago

    Hi Anita, I’m s sorry you’re going through this. I can imagine the isolation is incredibly difficult and frustrating. I am thinking of you!

  • Carla Kienast
    5 years ago

    Oh Tamara! What a wonderful dream! I can no longer really do stairs. I occasionally do “down”, but I can’t manage the “up” at all. Fortunately we live in a one-story house and my office has a convenient (if horribly slow) elevator. I’m with you. I’d be a happy girl if I could eliminate stairs to the benefit of us all. (When will they ever invent the Star Trek tri-corder. We could just beam where we needed to be.)

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    5 years ago

    Thanks for sharing, Carla. Yes, beam me up, Scotty!

  • rhonda
    5 years ago

    I also have this dream. When we bought our home 7yr ago I didn’t have ra so the steep flight of stairs didn’t seem like a big deal. Now that I am 6yr into this disease I find my self fantasizing about not having to climb the stairs so many times a day. Our house is over 100yr old and I love all the character but unfortunately the stairs are awful on my joints and laundry is the worst. I have resorted to throwing all the clothes to the bottom of stairs. It’s not pretty but it works. I dream of living in a cute little ranch with no stairs in sight. Thanks for sharing.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    5 years ago

    Rhonda, I’m so sorry you have to deal with all those stairs in your home. Not only would I also throw the laundry down the stairs, I doubt I’d ever get them back upstairs once clean. I’m bad enough about carrying laundry baskets to their proper destinations without having to go up stairs. It sounds like you’re coping very well in spite of this big challenge!

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