As someone who has cerebral palsy, mathematics is not my favorite of the academic disciplines. Due to my disability, I have poor visual perception and spatial skills. I have never excelled at mathematics. However, there is one math equation I complete multiple times a day.
While reading the blog, The Squeaky Wheelchair, run by Kathleen Downes last summer, I came across the term “pee math.” Suddenly, I realized that what I have been doing my whole life has a name and that I am not the only disabled person who does this calculation. For some of us who have physical disabilities, we are all too familiar with the need to limit our fluid intake. I became skilled at remembering just how many ounces of fluid were in the drinks that I brought with me to school every day.
Growing up, I used the restroom in school once a day. I never wanted to inconvenience the aides who the school paid to assist me with personal needs. Granted, the vast majority of these aides were caring, understanding people. I felt bad enough that I needed somebody’s help with such personal tasks. In particular, during my senior year of high school, I had an aide assigned to me who I wasn’t fond of.
Ableism led me to believe that an essential bodily function was an inconvenience for people who were supporting me. I, of course, never told the aides that I felt this way. Sometimes, I hardly had anything to drink during the day, just so I didn’t need to use the restroom in school multiple times. Every time I had to use the bathroom, there was a little bit of a process involved. Making things more complicated is the fact that most public bathrooms only have one accessible restroom stall. If someone was using it in school, I had to wait.
Even now, at 21-years old, I still worry about the inconvenience I cause people when I need help. My roommate, who is also a longtime friend of mine, always encourages me to stay adequately hydrated during the day and at night. However, each time I require help to use the restroom, I can’t help but feel a little guilty. However, since graduating from high school in 2018, my fluid intake has become much more healthy.
When you have a physical disability, you learn to make your needs less important than they are for the sake of caregivers and other people around you. This is an unhealthy habit and one I have been working hard to break because my needs do matter and are just as important as anyone else’s.