I've been trying to have a good attitude about people opening the door for Anna but today it all boiled over and I almost told someone, "Excuse me. Do you have any idea how rude you are and how stupid you look? Just leave us alone."
This is a little extreme since people are "just trying to help," but it is SO annoying and stressful. Here's the situation: Anna can walk, but she needs someone to walk with her and she also needs her wheelchair nearby. So if only one person is with her, she just rides in the wheelchair. She can't operate a chair so she is just passively riding.
One thing Anna can do is press buttons with prompting and support, so her parents always have her press the buttons for her chair lift, elevators, and doors. They taught me to have her do it and it made sense to me because a)pressing buttons is an important skill if all your communication devices involve pressing buttons, b)it's something active Anna can do to help herself get around.
We go to Starbucks a lot and they have a closed door with a wheelchair button that opens the door. This should be a good opportunity for Anna to open the door for herself, right? WRONG because just as I move Anna into position to press the button, someone leaps up to open the door for us.
Why does this happen? A cursory glance shows that I am putting Anna's chair close to the button, moving her arm in front of the button, and encouraging her to press the button; and she is extending her finger to do so. It's obvious that our goal is for her to press the button and it is not helpful to take away her opportunity to do that. Yet people rush in to press the button or open the door out of some instinct of "that's what you do for disabled people."
I know they're just trying to be polite and for some people in Anna's neighborhood, she is a familiar figure who they want to be friendly to. Plus, I'm sure I've done something similar to a wheelchair user in the past. I honestly have tried for so long to not resent people for opening the door for us, but today it hit me: every trip to Starbucks has become a race against the Door Police.
All I want is for Anna to get to perform a skill that she can do. But every time we enter or exit Starbucks, I take in the situation and see if people are close enough that they can immediately leap in to save us, or if it will take them a minute to get over to the door. If they're close to us, Anna doesn't stand a chance--she just isn't fast enough to push the button before someone puts an end to our imaginary predicament. But if people aren't that close to the door, Anna might be able to push the button!
If Anna pushes the button in time but pushes it too softly for it to work, there is no way she'll have time to try again.
I always feel disappointed when Anna doesn't get to open the door herself--frustrated that the button is not more sensitive or that I didn't move her hand more quickly before people noticed what I was doing. But why should we have to rush or get it right on the first try? If people would actually look at us instead of assuming we need help because Anna's in a wheelchair, then she would always get to open the door. Instead she doesn't get to most of the time, but if I ever expressed how annoying it is that people won't let her do it, I would be the asshole for not appreciating their good intentions.