A more human web

Last month, Anne Gibson wrote an exceptional piece here, outlining an alphabet of accessibility. If you missed it, you should go back and give it a read, but here’s a quote to get you started:

Robin Christopherson (@usa2day) points out that many of us are only temporarily able-bodied. I’ve seen this to be true. At any given moment, we could be juggling multiple tasks that take an eye or an ear or a finger away. We could be exhausted or sick or stressed. Our need for an accessible web might last a minute, an hour, a day, or the rest of our lives. We never know.

I’m writing this from my couch, with my right leg propped up on some balled-up blankets and a pillow. My knee is aching again. It’s not excruciating, just a constant presence, somehow dull and scratchy at the same time.

This has been going on in fits and starts since January, but I’m only now starting to realize the toll it’s taken on me since then. It’s been a long year.

I do all the things. I rest, I ice, I NSAID, I talk to my doctor, I go to physical therapy, I do my exercises, I stretch, I brace, I tape.

Some days are better than others. Mostly, it’s frustrating and slow and any forward motion is of the one-step-forward-two-steps-back variety. The sort of thing that would be a montage in a film, only I don’t get to hit fast forward on my life to get back to the point where I can run again, or even just walk without pain.

The last month or so though, things were getting better. For the first time since January, I was no longer afraid. Afraid that something was really wrong. Afraid that this would never get better. Afraid that it was a signal of worse things to come. I hadn’t realized how heavily all of that was bearing down on me, until I was marveling its absence.

Two weeks ago, things inexplicably got worse. I was completely unprepared for it, thinking I’d made it safely to shore, only to get pulled back under by another wave. I’m somehow still surprised by the tunnel vision that comes with pain. It becomes the lens through which I make all decisions. Will this make things worse?

Even minor pain, when it drags on, creates a steady hum, a background noise to your life that makes it just a little harder to hear the things around you. There’s a frustration that bleeds into everything you do, every interaction that you have. It means constantly confronting the fact that activities you once completed with ease are now more challenging, or simply impossible. I keep trying to remind myself to slow down, to adjust, but I honestly don’t know that I’ll ever get used to it.

I’m not writing this for sympathy (or medical advice), but more as a reminder. Last month, Anne reminded us that we need a more accessible web, but we also need a more human web. These things go hand in hand.

In the grand scheme of things, my knee pain is impossibly small, and incredibly trivial. But it’s still on my mind a lot. Whether I want to or not, I’m carrying it around with me, everywhere I go. It’s taking up a corner of my brain while I walk down the street, or ride the T, or look at my Twitter timeline, or read that article, or try to respond to your email.

It’s so easy to view our own lives and problems in three dimensions, while seeing everyone else in two.

I’ve got my knee, but we’ve all got something, and I’d like to think that most of us, most of the time, are doing the best that we can.

Let’s try to remember that while we’re building this space together.

This post originally appeared on The Pastry Box Project.