April 28, 2007

The swimming pool is open!

Filed under: Atlanta, Disability, Health, Life, US, Wheelchair — Kim & Sophie @ 8:48 pm

poolI found out yesterday that the building’s swimming pool is open again!  Yay!  I use to love swimming, but I’m not sure if I can anymore.  When Julian comes back I’ll find out.  I’m not sure if I cna actually lift my head out of the water to breathe (which wouldn’t be good at all), but I guess I would be able to float, and I can move my arms so I suppose I could swim. 

I’m hoping I can because it gets so hot here!  I heard on th news that this summer we can expect some days to go up to 100°F (37.78°C)!  When you can’t sweat below your shoulders you don’t tolerate heat very well at all!  I’m really not looking forward to the heat this summer.

You may notice the stairs in the photo, there is another way to get to the pool.  There is a gate on that level, but you have to go back through the building and down a floor to get to it.  The stairs lead to the sun deck where there is a tennis court, bbq, lounge chairs, a gazebo and things.  Here is a photo of that part. 

sun deck

I would like to try playing tennis too.  I did a bit when I was younger.  We found some tennis balls with bells in them at Petsmart, but I’m not sure how well they would work.  I think a beeping tennis ball would be better.  We were also looking at tennis rackets at Sports Authority.  We found a couple that I might be able to use if I attached them to my hand.  This reminds me I should go down to the games room and play some pool.  I’ve lived here for five months so far and I haven’t been down there since before we moved in!


April 27, 2007

Stone Mountain Park

Filed under: Accessibility, Atlanta, Disability, Life, Reviews, US, Wheelchair — Kim & Sophie @ 4:30 pm

stoneOn Sunday, April 22nd we went to Stone Mountain Park.  We packed a lunch in a cooler and were on our way.  The drive was about 40 minutes long, and it was a really hot day.  When we got there we found a disabled parking space near the entrance and got everything ready for the day. 

We didn’t have a long wait at all in the line at the entrence, and once we got our tickets and bracelets for the park we decided to take a ride on the train.  It has a lot of open cars with seats for passengers and it goes around the the mountain.  We had to wait for about 20 minutes before the next train came, so we waited in the shade by some benches.  Once the train came we were told to go through the exit.  Of course this meant going against the flow of people getting off the train, but once we were halfway to the train we figured out why.  The width of the space where people entered the train platform was just way too narrow for a wheelchair.  After waiting for some people to come down the ramp and the exit we waited at the very last car of the train.  This one had a wheelchair lift!  The guy who worked on the train was very good and chatted as he operated the lift.  Sophie likes riding them, maybe it’s because for once she is the height of a person and can see a lot more! 

There was a lot of space for wheelchair users in the back of this car and a bench for anyone who went with them so they wouldn’t have to be split up.  I noticed that there was spaces on the floor for tie downs, but they weren’t used.  It’s not like they needed to be.  The train rattled and rumbled a lot over the tracks, but it was suprisingly smooth when starting and stopping!  The train stopped for a bit of a show called “Dueling Wagons”, and there was a recording about the history of the trains and music.  We also stopped at another station where you could get off and hike the trails on the mountian.  I decided not to do this, but if I had a One-Off handcycle I would have totally did it!  (You can click on the link to watch a video of these handcycles in action).  When we got back to the main station Sophie jumped off the wheelchair lift when it touched the ground.  She decided that she didn’t want to wait for the front of the lift to fold down first.  She just stepped over it! 

We went up a hill and sat in front of the carving on the side of the mountain and and ate our lunch.  It said “slight incline” on the map, but believe me, it was a “hill”!  They have lazer light shows there on Saturday nights.  Then we went to the musume.  It was nice and cool inside, and we watched a short 11 minute movie about the carving on the mountain.  The most annoying thing was that when sitting in the wheelchair space the speakers were set up in a way that if you sat on the left side you could only hear the movie in your right ear!  (This kind of sucks slightly when you already can’t see the movie!)  I moved all the way over to the right and it was much better. 

The gift stores were a bit crowded with both shelves and people, but for the most part I could get around and we ended up buying two t-shirts.  Then we deicded to take the Sky Ride up to the top of the mountian.  We went through a very crowded gift store and lined up.  By this time I was in the very early stages of AD (Autonomic Dysreflexia).  The older lady who operated that car was very helpful (a bit overly helpful actually), but still nice.  She got out the ramp and put it accross the gap that was between the platform and car.  It was weird because it was still pretty flat but as I wheeled off of it the metal ramp made a huge noise!  The ride up the mountain was pretty cool, knowing we were dangling hundreds of feet in the air by a cable!  Sophie didn’t mind it at all.  When we got off a young girl had gotten her arm stuck between the railing and window though.  I guess they got her arm out once we were off.  Her father was trying to pull it out and she was crying, but the lady who worked there was trying to get him to calm down and she would do it.  I think he freaked the kid out more than the fact that her arm was caught!

When we got to the top while I was waiting for Julian to come out fo the washroom a security guard who was working there came up to me and asked if I wanted to get out (I’m not a dog!), and after telling her no I was sure I didn’t want to go out and I was just waiting for someone she started talking to someone else.  Julian came out and it was my turn to go to the bathroom.  I had taken my sandles off while we were eating because my feet were swollen and I had to try my best not to let my feet touch the icky bathroom floor!  As I transfered I also realized that the backpack on the back of my wheelchair caused it to tip backwards.  Luckily Sophie had this under control because it was attached to her colar.  On my way out, some pre-teen walked into me after I opened the door.  She just stood there while I was holding the door open and then proceeded to squeeze her way past us.  She has to squeeze between Sophie and the wall to get in because it was a really tight space!  Why didn’t she just back up and wait the extra few seconds it would have taken us to get past?!  I swear I feel so invisible sometimes!  Julian said she was listening to music with earbuds so she obviously wasn’t paying much attention! 

We went outside on a few of the lookout areas.  They were all very hot with the sun blazing down on us.  There was a ramp on two of the three platforms to go out onto the rocks.  When we went out onto the last the same security guard stopped us in the restraunt and was in a bit of a panic telling us that the disabled button to open the d oors was broken.  Julian had to repeat that we knew about three times before she let us go through.  (It was the button for hte doors we used to get inside the building).   This time there was a shady area where we gave Sophie some ice and viewing thing ate Julian’s quarter without actually letting him “view” anything! 

I noticed that while I was on the mountian I was dizzy and it felt like I wasn’t getting enough oxygen when I was breathing.  I wasn’t to the point of passing out or anything, but I felt like I had to breathe more deeply than I could to get the same amount of air in my lungs as I needed.  We totally skipped the line getting into the Sky ride to go back down the mountain, and on the way down we were right up in front.  Sophie laid on the floor and waited until we reached the bottom.  I wonder if she realized where we were? 

We had planned on going on the river boat, but by then I wasn’t feeling so great with all the heat and things, so we decided to skip that part and come back later.  I waited near some benches while Julian walked to the other parking lot to get the car.  It was slightly amusing when the tram that took people to the river boat showed up and stopped right next to me while he was gone!  I was sitting at the stop for it!  We could have gotten a ride right to it!  They also had an accessible part with a ramp on it.  I thought this was pretty cool.  Apparently the duck rides (vehicles that can drive on land and water) are also accessible, but we didn’t ride them.  Julian came by as the tram was getting ready to leave and we packed up the car and drove around to the camp sites.  We are planning on maybe going camping there this summer because they have accessible sites. 

It’s really nice there.  If your ever around Stone Mountain, you should go check it out.  Overall it’s very accessible! 

March 23, 2007

The American Cafe

Filed under: Accessibility, Atlanta, Disability, Life, Reviews, US, Wheelchair — Kim & Sophie @ 10:52 pm

cafeWe’ve been going to The American Cafe since we moved to Altanta.  It’s in Phipps Plaza (a mall here in Atlanta).  The first thing I noticed about this restaurant was how the staff treated me.  Usually when I go out to eat people generally treat me a bit like a child, or like they are thinking “Wow, it’s so nice this person is out in public for awhile!”  It also usually involves the staff asking if my guide dog is a “seeing eye dog” (even though she is wearing a harness and clearly guided me into the building) and then running off to tell the manager there is a dog in the restaurant.  (I’ve had one girl at the Cheesecake Factory do this on numerous occasions!)

The staff at the American Cafe never once asked about Sophie being a guide dog, and have no problem finding the best place for us to sit.  Usually they will ask us which table would be best, and will move the chairs away from the table without acting like it’s a huge deal.  They also speak dirrectly to me, instead of asking Julian if I’d like something to drink etc.  (Believe it or not, this hardly ever happens).

One of the women who works there always comes over to say hello to Sophie when we go there, and we now get asked if we would like our usual table!  The food is great, and so are the staff!  I’d highly recommend this restaurant to everyone, and Phipps Plaza offers some great shopping!

February 23, 2007

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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