May 4, 2007

My cushion is here!

Filed under: Disability, Health, Hints & Tips, Life, Reviews, Wheelchair — Kim & Sophie @ 11:14 pm

roho2Today I got my cushion.  Does this sound familiar?  It should!  Not too long ago I was writing about getting another cushion!  Unfortunatly, it didn’t work out.  I tried the cushion for awhile, but realized that I wouldn’t be able to use it on my new wheelchair because when it was bent a tiny bit a huge wrinkle would form across the whole cushion.  My new wheelchair is going to have an ergonomic seat.  This means that the last 6 inches of the seat will be level with the ground, then the frame bends.  I need a cushion that can sit on the frame and bend at the same angle.  The Roho Quadtro Select cushion will do just that!  Of course it is made of rubber, which isn’t the best when you have a latex allergy like I have, but if I’m really careful I don’t have to actually touch any of the rubber.

I really like this cushion.  There’s a sliding button on the front.  If you push it one way it lets the air circulate throughout the whole cushion, but if you slide it the opposite way the air is trapped in four different sections.  This makes the cushion more stable.  I can’t sit on other Roho cushions because they don’t have this, and they are way too unstable.  With this cushion I can also have more air in the front two sections and less in the back two.  smoothieThis helps with sitting balance, and I can also push more air out of one of the back sections so my pelvis is level when sitting!  It’s great!

I took a break while writing this to watch the movie “Cars“.  I watched most of it with Julian the last time he was here, but I fell asleep and missed a lot of it.  It was good. 

Earlier tonight I decided to try out my new cushion and went to the grocery store to get a few things.  I also stopped to get a strawberry and banana smoothie, but I swear the girl just made me a strawberry one.  I didn’t realize this until I was home.  Sophie had a doggy sundae!  They put a spoonful of vanilla ice cream in a dish with a milk bone stuck in it!  She loves them.  I always have to pick the milk bone out and feed it to her though, because she tries to eat all of the ice cream too.  Tonight she ate a big mouthful of ice cream and had it all over her tongue and was licking her tongue out like crazy!  It was sooo cute!


May 1, 2007

Blogging Against Disablism 2007

Filed under: Accessibility, Disability, Health, Hints & Tips, Life, Wheelchair — Kim & Sophie @ 11:30 pm

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2007When I read about “Blogging Against Disablism Day” I though it was a great idea and that I would take part in it.

I’ll admit I had to think about the whole “discrimination” thing before I started writing.  My question was “have I been discriminated against since I moved here last December?  I thought about this realized that the little things count too.

For instance, there is a mall close by called “Lenox Square”  The first time we went there we parked in the parking deck, got out of the car and tried to find an exit.  The only one we could find had stairs going up one level.  There was disabled parking in this area, but no way for anyone who had to use the spaces to get out!  We thought about going out the way the cars came in, but we couldn’t do that either.  The sidewalk didn’t have a curb cut.  We had to get back in the car and find somewhere else to park.  The next time we went to this mall we thought to make it easier we would take the train.  We got to the mall entrance, went down a long hill, and as we got to the bottom noticed that there is no way to get off the narrow sidewalk!  There was a curb cut, but there was a huge post with a gate attached for the parking lot.  It clocked off the sidewalk completely, leaving barely enough room for someone to squeeze by if they were walking.  The curb was about 6 inches high and went dirrectly into the busy entrance!  If Julian wasn’t with me I would be trapped there, not being able to get back up the hill.  He had to lift me down the curb, which was pretty dangerous, we had to stay in the street for about 200 feet before we could get on the sidewalk in front of the mall.  Is this just “ignorance” or is it “discrimination”?

Before moving here I lived in Canada.  I use to take buses quite a bit.  These were low floor buses, where the driver pushed a button the bus leaned and then a ramp came out.  The wheelchair user got onto the bus, the driver flipped up a seat and secured the wheelchair.  This whole process took about 2 or 3 minutes.  A lot of the drivers would either speed past the bus stop, or claim that the ramp was broken!  Once I explained to them that there was a loop on the side of the ramp so it could be operated manually, the ramp would always “magically” start working!  The drivers just didn’t want to have to go through the process of lifting the seat and securing 3 or 4 straps.

Not only am I a wheelchair user, but I’m also blind and have a guide dog.  I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve been told I’m either not allowed into a building, restaurant, store, or other place of buisness because of my guide dog!  (This is totally against the law)!  I’ve even been told at a Chinese restaurant once that I had to tie her up on the street while I ate there!  (Which I didn’t of course)! 

When searching for a job some years ago I went to so many interviews.  I would either get rushed through the interview knowing that I wouldn’t be hired because they were treating me like a 5 yr old, or in some cases they would see me, tell me that the poisition was filled and take the next person waiting in for an interview!  Of course there was no way of actually “proving” this, so I’d just have to continue my search and hope for the best.

I try my best to change people’s attitudes, but sometimes this is not a very easy task.  People assume that if you can’t walk and can’t see you can’t have a life.  The way I think about this problem is if I can change one person’s attitude towards people who are disabled I have changed many peoples attitudes towards us.  If I change the way one person views us then they will hopefully pass that onto their children, and their children will pass it on to their children and so on.  We can only hope, but until then I just try to take attitudes and the discrimination I get as they come and try to change things where I can. 

I just wish people would realize that a person who happens to have a disability is still a person, and that one day they could be in that same situation!

April 1, 2007

The problem with physical examinations

Filed under: Accessibility, Disability, Health, Hints & Tips, Life, Making things accessible, Wheelchair — Kim & Sophie @ 2:37 am

examSomething came to my attention about a month ago that I hadn’t thought about before.  I was at the Doctor’s office, talking to her during an apointment and she mentioned having an exam done in the next three months.  Now, for all of the females out there, you probably know the dreded “exam” I’m talking about, and that in order for it to be possible you have to “hop up” onto an examination table much like the one pictured to the left.  This is not a problem for anyone who can walk.  There is usually some kind of step stool either attached to the table itself, or sitting on the floor in the office.

For anyone who can’t walk this presents a huge problem!  Unless someone can physically lift you up onto the exam table, there is no way to get up there.  It’s so tall, that transfering is impossible. 

In bigger hospitals there are “lift teams”, whose jobs are to lift people.  If I go to the hiospital the nurses would call the lift team and have them come lift me onto the stretcher, x-ray table etc.  This involves one of the guys standing behind my chair and slipping his arms under mine, and another guy standing in front of me holding me under my knees.  However if I go to a clinic, there is no “lift team”, and because of the height of the table and the fact that if my body straightens up when I’m in the horizontal position I tend to get really dizzy and pass out because my blood pressure drops so fast this just isn’t possible.

There are companies that make accessible examination tables that lower to a height that is more accessible for everyone.  A wheelchair user can transfer onto it before it is raised up, or a person with joint problems etc. can sit on it without having to use the step stool.  This option would make the whole process easier for everyone, but because they cost more, not very many places have them.

Here’s a question that there can be a lot of debate over:  If a female wheelchair user can’t physically get onto the exam table and she is on birth control what happens?  There are two options here.  The first is that the Doctor refuses to let her stay on birth control because she can’t get her regular pap smear, so she is either going to have to stop having sex altogether, or start planning a family.  The other option is for the Doctor to let her continue birth control without the annual exam.  If the wheelchair user knows the consequences of this, I believe it should be her choice, but sadly it’s usually the Doctor who is taking the wheelchair user’s life in their hands and making the decision for them.  No exam, no birth control!

February 25, 2007


Filed under: Disability, Hints & Tips, Life, Reviews, Wheelchair — Kim & Sophie @ 7:56 pm

small_437a.jpgI thought I’d talk about vacuuming in this post.  This chore has to be one of the most frustrating for wheelchair users.  When we went shopping for a vacuum Julian and I stood in front of a display with many different kinds trying to figure out what would be best. 

I already knew I wanted a vacuum that wasn’t too heavy, and that was an upright design.  That way I could move it around more easily, and I wouldn’t have to try to drag a canister around.  I would only have to deal with the cord.  Once we narrowed the list down to lightweight, upright vacuums we still had a lot to choose from.

Because I have a latex allergy, we also had to choose a model that didn’t have any rubber parts.  This took a lot of models out of the running right away.  Then Julian found one that really could work.  It’s a Eureka Optima.  It’s lightweight, upright, bagless, has a filter, lots of easy to use attachments, and even has a height adjustable handle!  If I adjust the handle two notches from the shortest setting it’s at a nice comfortable height for me to use. 

All of the buttons are easily accessible and can be used when you have little or no hand movement.  The bin can be unattached or attached with little effort, and it even comes with an attachment for doing curtains. 

 I have a yellow lab guide dog and she sheds quite a bit.  I can easily vacuum the chair she likes to sleep in, her bed, the carpeting in the bedroom, the hardwood floors throughout the condo and also the tiled floor in the bathroom.  It also has a rounded handle, so I can hook my arm in around it to get a better “grip”. 

One trick I found that works for me when vacuuming is to hang the cord over teh handle of the vacuum.  This way it stays up off the floor so I can’t wheel over it.  I still have the cord behind me to deal with, but if I move the cord to the side of the vacuum and ahead of it then I don’t get caught in it so often.

I knwo a lot of wheelchair users use a dustbuster between their feet to do light vacuuming, but when you really need to vacuum, I suggest getting this model of vacuum.  It has made this chore so much easier!

February 24, 2007

Disabled washroom stalls

stallThere is one thing that really annoys me.  I mean it annoys me so much I swear my blood pressure rises.  It’s when I go into a washroom and pass a half dozen or more perfectly good empty stalls only to get to the disabled stall to find that it is occupied.  Is there another wheelchair user in there?  Of course not!  It’s someone who was perfectly capable of using any of the half dozen or more stalls they had to pass to get to that disabled stall, but they just “wanted the extra room”!

For starters, why would they need all that extra room?  A regular sized stall has enough room to close the door and move around as needed.  There’s enough room to hang your purse or bag on the door, or lay your shopping bags in front of you.  Sure, a little more room is a bonus, but in my case it’s a need.  I can’t fit into regular sized stalls.  It’s impossible for me to use them.  These people who “like having the extra room” can use the other stalls with no problem and be on their way.

While they are in the bigger stall, taking their sweet time doing God knows what, I’m usually sitting outside waitint and wiating.  Not only am I waiting, but I’m in the way of the other people coming in and using the regular stalls. They can’t get to the sinks, I’m blocking the stall next to the disabled one because the door of the disabled stall swings out and I don’t want to get hit with it when the person comes out!  So I sit ther waiting and going over in my head how long it’s been since I peed last.  I have to every 4 hours, but can go up to 5 sometimes with a lot of luck, if I didn’t have a lot to drink.  Now, I’m sitting there outside th occupied stall counting down the time before I absolutly need to go before my bladder decides it can’t hold things any longer.  Should I wait for this person to come out, or should I take my chances and try to find another washroom on another floor of the building somewhere?  (And I say I don’t gamble!)

The stall door finally opens and the person who was in there stops dead in their tracks.  They act embarrassed and most of the time in their embarrassed haste pushes past me to try to get out of there as fast as they can.  Sometimes even tripping over my guide dog in the process! 

Now, you might be thinking why not just tap on the door and let them know you need the stall.  Well it’s because human nature takes over when you do this and the person inside the stall usually takes even longer then.  They somehow feel that they deserve to stay in there longer because of the annoying person outside who disruppted them.  Like it’s someone my fault that they feel so guilty now, or that they would have been able to take their time if only the “person in the wheelchair” wasn’t there.

The worst time this happened to me was when I was at the airport in Miami.  I had gotten off a flight and Julian and I were trying to hurry and find a washroom for me before we went to pick up our luggage.  By now I really had to use the bathroom. Although I can’t feel it I knew I was cutting time very close.  We find a washroom and I go in, only to find someone in the disabled stall.  I waited and waited while other people came and went.  A girl came in and asked if someone was in there.  I said yes and she looked under the stall.  A girl was in tehre with her suitcases.  She let her know I was outside and needed the stall and this girl didn’t even reply.  I waited and waited so long I decided the only thing to do if I didn’t want to wet mself was to find another washroom!

I went back outside to where Julian was waiting and we rushed around until we found another washroom.  I just made it.  All because this girl was rustling around with her suitcases doing God knows what!  Was she changing her clothes?  Was she re-packing her things?  I don’t know, but I do know that she could have at least had the decency to say something or let me know how long she would be!

Do these people realize what they are doing?  I’ve heard a thousand times “well when I went in there, there was no one around who needed it”.  Well, maybe there wasn’t at that moment, but as soon as the stall door was shut someone could have came in!  How would they feel if they walked into a washroom only to find that every single stall was “out of order” and they didn’t know where another washroom was and their bladder was about to explode?!  That’s pretty much what it’s like for wheelchair users when someone is using the only wheelchair accessible stall!

I just hope that people will read this and understand and the next time they “want the extra room” they think back on this! 

changing table On a side note.  For parents, when you use the wheelchair accessible washroom that has the fold down baby changing table in it.  When you are done please fold it back up into the wall!  Time and time again I’ve went to use these washrooms only to find that I can’t even get inside because the changing table has been left down.  It’s blocking the way, and I can’t fold it back up because I can’t lift my arms over my head!  It only takes an extra couple of seconds to push it back up against the wall and twist the button! 

February 23, 2007

A simple fix for a few problems

I’ve been living in this apartment now since December.  It’s for the most part pretty accessible.  The kitchen is big enough to turn around in, and the bathroom is really big.  I have been having some issues when it comes to transfering from my wheelchair to the toilet though.

The toilet is between the cabinets and bathtub, so we couldn’t attach a grab bar to the wall.  It wouldn’t make sense to attach one to the end of the cabinets because it just wouldn’t hold up to the weight.  I thought about this for awhile and came up with a solution.  I got a bathtub rail that clamps onto the side of the tub.  It’s next to the toilet, so I can grab it to transfer, and I can also use it to help pull myself onto my bath bench!  Also when I move out there wont be any holes in the wall to fill.

I just thought I’d share this idea with everyone in case it could help someone else.  If you have any unique ways you have solved a problem like this why not leave a comment?

Lenox Square Mall

Lenox Square Mall

I visited Lenox Square mall on a number of occasions since I have been living in Atlanta.  This is a mall with a lot of “higher end” stores.  The mall is very nice and feels more like a high class office building than a mall compaired to most.  I have had quite a number of “problems” while trying to shop here though!

The first time I went there we drove by car.  We drove around aimlessly searching for a parking spot, and finally spoted one in the parking garage.  It was next to a disabled parking space, but seeing how I hadn’t gotten my disabled parking permit yet we decided that it would work.  There was extra room between it and the disabled parking space, so we parked and Julian proceeded to unpack my wheelchair from the trunk.  As he was doing this a girl drove up and parked in the disabled spot in a huge truck.  She didn’t have a disabled parking permit, and as she talked on her cell phone she noticed me transfering out of the car and drove off. 

We made our way towards the exit, and once we got there we discovered a set of concrete stairs leading up out of the parking garage.  There was no elevator or ramp, but there was a button to press if you needed help right at the bottom of the stairs!  My question was if I did press the button what would happen?  Would someone come and drag me up the concrete staircase?  I doubt it.  We turned around and tried to go out the way the cars came in.  Once we got there we found a very high curb onto a sidewalk with a big pole in the middle!  We were trapped in a parking garage that had disabled parking spots!  Obviously someone didn’t think that design all the way through!  We got in the car and had to park in a completely different parking lot accross the street from the mall.  Of course this one was on a hill, but at least I could get out of there!  I suggest paying the extra $7 for valet parking!  At least you can drive up right in front of the entrance and have your car brought right back to you!

 The next time we went to this mall we took the Marta train.  (That’s a whole other story!)  When we got to the mall we followed the sidewalk down a hill toward the mall.  It was very narrow with a high curb.  We got about halfway to the mall entrance when Julian pointed out that at the end of the sidewalk at the curb there was a big pillar that held the gate for a parking lot!  We got closer and found out there was no way I could get past it.  The pilllar and gate was blocking the curb and the sidewalk too narrow for anyone to even walk by.  Instead of going back up the hill and finding another way in, we decided to have Julian lift me down the curb.  He had to step out into the street, hold the front of my wheelchair and lower me down onto the street!  

You are probably thinking why didn’t I just pop a wheelie and hop down the curb?  Well for starters it was onto a street, I have a guide dog attached to my chair and I’m a quad with no balance.  Besides that the curb was at least 5 inches high!  We still had to go down the street, across the entrance for the parking lot, and finally cross another street to get to the mall.  All of this in really busy traffic.

Once we got inside the mall we stopped at the mall directory to find a place to eat.  That seemed simple enough.  There was an elevator right accross from us!  We got in and found out quickly that it didn’t even go to the floor the restraunt was on.  By this time I was getting very dizzy from being hungry.  So much that I had to concentrate really hard to not pass out.

We searched the whole mall before we found an elevator to the floor we needed.  This is where things really got messed up!  In order to get there you have to take an elevator, walk along a cobble stoned sidewalk that is uneven outside until you get to another entrence to the mall and then take another elevator once you are inside!  When we got there the restraunt we were going to eat at had a huge line-up, so we found yet another directory.  We ended up finding another elevator and going to the food court to eat.  It was really hot and crowded and I just felt awful by the time we left there.

Other than that the hallways are pretty wide and there are a few slight ramps.  But it was really aparent whoever designed the property wasn’t thinking about accessibility at all!  If you have a lot of time and patience it could be worth the trip, but it is usually very crowded, and again I would suggest the valet parking, or at least parking on the side of the mall that Macy’s is on.

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