person using wheelchair looking at tall winding staircase

No, I Will Not Be Attending Your Inaccessible Party

It makes me look like a jerk, but I just can’t do it. I can’t climb flights of stairs. I can’t be lifted in my (250 pound motorized) wheelchair. I won’t travel long distances to the point of exhaustion. I won’t dehydrate myself because the bathroom is impossible. I won’t test out temporary and rickety make-shift ramps into your home. I won’t be doing any of these things because I hit my limit: no more inaccessible parties.

Make-shift wheelchair accessibility isn't safe

It’s not your fault that most houses are inaccessible, that you have a four-story townhouse with too many stairs to count and a bathroom smaller than an airplane toilet. I’m not blaming you. But I just can’t do it anymore.

I can’t tie myself into knots, arrange for the strongest people I know to show up and lift me, bring my crutch and hope this is not the time my toe will catch a step and send me tumbling, stop drinking fluids the day before in the hope I won’t have to pee in order to avoid the super-low antique toilet, and have someone push me in my manual wheelchair over a board serving as a ramp that looked like it had seen better days during the Revolutionary War.

Inaccessible places are exhausting to navigate

It’s that whole thing. I’m exhausted thinking about it. So, I’m just not coming. I’m sorry you made an effort to reach out and find the scariest possible ramp ever invented and restored those antique bathroom fixtures that I can’t possibly manage. I appreciate it. Really, I do. But just count me out. I’ll see you another time. Perhaps at Starbucks where they have accessible restrooms and I don’t have to risk life and limb to show up. It’s OK. Really, it’s better for both of us.

I used to be more adventurous. But really, now I am just tired. And I just don’t want to have to work so hard. Life’s a struggle anyway, why make it harder?

Consider wheelchair accessibility before sending an invite

While it’s not your fault that your house is inaccessible and 50 miles from the public transportation I depend on, perhaps you might consider thinking about this before you invite me and then get angry and when I don’t show? Yes, I do want to be invited. But think about what that means, what I may need for assistance, and if this effort is worth my very limited energy. Reconsider getting angry when I ask some basic questions about the nearness of public transit, the accessibility of the entrance and first floor (or party area), and if I can use the restroom. When the answers don’t meet my needs, think about not blaming me. That would be nice.

I know. I ask a lot. So maybe just reach out and say: “I want to invite you, but I know the accessibility is a problem. Is there anything I can do? If not, can we make other plans another time that would be easier for you?”

There are some limitations with accessing spaces with a wheelchair

Because just as it’s not your fault your home may not be accessible enough for my physical abilities, it is also not my fault that my rheumatoid arthritis has kicked my butt repeatedly and created some limitations in how I can get around. I’m trying my best, but it is hard. And although I care about you, extra effort on my part may not be enough to solve these problems. In fact, you may be asking too much of me without realizing it. And I may be getting angry because then I feel misunderstood and abused.

As a friend, I hope you understand where I'm coming from

So just to recap: I’m not coming to your inaccessible party. I may not explain all or any of these things to you because it’s exhausting even just to try. I’m hoping that as my friend you might already understand, at least just a little bit. So, I’ll just see you another time.

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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.

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