I’ve written here that I don’t need to stand for standing sake. Once I get past the initial emotional hit of how incredible I’m sure it would feel to be mobile on my legs, then I’d begin to find out when I would actually need to stand for practical reasons.
So, what would those be? Allow me to speculate.
The first situation that comes to mind is when I’m in a crowd. I recently went to see the reggae band Toots and the Maytals at my local county fair. There were very poor arrangements for an accessible seating area; nothing, in fact, with a guaranteed view. Instead, although they placed my friend and me a few rows from the front, we were behind people who were on their feet dancing the entire time. My view was limited to what I could spot between the bodies, and the brief times I could lift myself in the chair to see a little better. And my friend felt bad for me, shifting the emotional dynamic of the time we were spending together.
I certainly got into the groove of the music and had a lot of fun, but it would have been great to be able to stand up for that.
Likewise at basketball games. When the crowd is on their feet, I might as well be paralyzed and blind. Sporting events are much worse than concerts, because the crowd is on their feet exactly when the most dramatic stuff is going on, exactly when the most astounding athletic moment is likely to happen. Hearing it but not seeing it is a huge bummer.
Fourth of July parades. Weddings. Spiritual gatherings. These are the times when not being able to stand not only blocks me from seeing what’s going on, but cuts me off from feeling connected with the collective, the community around me. It cuts me off from the shared experience everyone else gets to have. It compromises the experience, denies me the joy and unity everyone else gets to feel.
When standing doesn’t matter so much is at the grocery store when I can’t reach something. There are always plenty of people around to ask, and shopping in eLEGS would mean I wouldn’t be able to carry a basket or push a cart. Sitting wins out for that one.
So far, this is all about standing. Walking is not what counts at concerts or sporting events or the supermarket. So when would walking matter to me?
I’ve always hated that I have such limited choice in theater and arena seating. I get out of my chair, because the seat is more comfortable, and it’s a lot easier to have a conversation, whisper in the ear, or hold hands with the person I’m with. The only options are the aisles (which typically means letting my wheelchair be taken away – which I dislike intensely), or the designated accessible spaces, which might not be such great seats (though sometimes are). Usually I can only sit with one companion, which means that if I’m there with a group of people, we have to split apart. Being able to get to any seat in the house would be a dream come true.
I often experience extreme limitation at parties, especially at a private home. Once I get there, I’m often stuck in the same spot all night, relying on people to come over and hang out, or for others to go get me drinks or food. Oh, to be able to move through the crowd, approach someone I’d like to meet, or make my way to say hi to (and share a standing hug with) someone I know rather than wait for them to find me! I’m not sure I’d be able to dance in eLEGS (which I can do just fine on wheels), but maybe someday they’ll design custom programs for robotic boogying down! (MS Word’s dictionary apparently approves of the word “boogying,” to my own surprise.)
Walking would come in handy on surfaces that are difficult to wheel on. I live in Northern California, where there are a lot of gorgeous trails and scenery within minutes of my front door, most of which I can’t partake. Plus I co-parent two fantastic Labrador retrievers, and there are only certain paved trails that I can take them out on. Even the unpaved trails that are wheelable are difficult because they’re strewn with potholes, stretches of gravel, tree roots, or sandy portions. These are really exhausting on wheels, so I just don’t go there. I love the prospect that eLEGS could improve my contact with nature.
So, for starters, these are the actual, practical uses of eLEGS that come to mind for me.
Anything else come to mind for you? Let’s get the discussion going here and contemplate what other real, daily life applications we can imagine for eLEGS.