Friday, August 3, 2012

Yippee! Some Places That Make My Disabled Life Easier (And a Few Gripes)

I’m not always a cranky handicapped person. Some things I encounter in my new disabled life actually make me thankful that a service or accommodation works delightfully well.
I do take note of those when I come across them.
But I also take note of things that drive me nuts, things that make my challenging life even more difficult.
Here are a few of each on my latest list:

The Cayucos Beach Inn: a small, privately-owned hotel in a tiny California coastal community that has the best accessible bathroom I’ve been in.
I’ve been in plenty of accessible hotel rooms and I can say this: You never know what you are going to get. One time I opened the door to find a bathtub right in the bedroom -- not one of those walk-in bathtubs you see on TV ads -- but a regular climb-in tub. I could not get in one of those unless I had a team of firefighters hoisting me in and out. That room also had a roll-in shower in the restroom that suited me just fine. (I was in a wheelchair at the time.)
Other times I find showers that have safety bars, but the shelves for the soap and shampoo are out of reach. Or nonexistent. 
But the Cayucos Beach Inn asked what type of accommodation I needed before I checked in. I said I pretty much just needed railings near the toilet and in the shower. (I can’t stand or walk alone without a mobility device.)
What they gave me was a spacious bathroom with a shower that had to have been designed by someone who was actually disabled. Not only did I find well-placed rails, but the handheld shower wand was at my level. The padded (yay!) shower bench pulled down easily from the wall.

There was a tray at shoulder level (when I was sitting) to hold my soap and little bottles. And the towel was reachable while I was still seated.
I know, it might not sound like much to the abled world, but the combination of all those things was nirvana for me.
The Stander Co., which makes one of my favorite walkers, is not only innovative but dependable and true to their word. I found their Metro Travel Walker online when I was looking for an alternative to the boring walkers that I seemed to see everywhere. 
In a previous blog I discussed the pros and cons on all the walkers I’ve used. My black walnut Metro walker gets compliments everywhere. I tell inquirers to write down the name and look it up on their computers. The walker is lightweight and fashionable. It’s the only one I can easily lift into the car by myself and I take it most places with me. It doesn’t meet all my needs, but it’s close to it.
So I was upset when one of the crossbars broke. I had bought mine from an internet
retailer, so I looked the Stander company up online and called it. I asked if the walker had a warranty, but said I didn’t have evidence of when I purchased it. They told me not to worry, the walker had a lifetime guarantee.
They sent me a new one free of charge immediately. 
When I recently had another minor problem, I called again.They repeated that the Metro is guaranteed for life and they shipped my replacement parts post haste.
This was not what I would consider a high ticket item, (a search online shows an average price of $100). I’ve used other walkers or mobility aids that were more expensive, some were given to me and and one I got for $12 at Goodwill. But if I had a problem with any of them, usually a bent bar or a stuck joint, I just tossed it in the trash and grumbled.
Dream Dinners is a make-it-yourself meal place I was introduced to before I got sick.
I used to go with a friend, where we would spend a couple of hours assembling meals that we could put in our freezer to last the whole month. It was fun, affordable and the meals were always healthy and tasty.
Now that I’m disabled, I can’t make the meals myself. Fortunately Dream Dinners began a Made-For-You program which was fabulously timed with my recovery from grave illness.
Now I order my meals a month at a time online, then I drive to the Dream Dinners nearest me at Granada Hills, Calif. (with my Stander walker in tow).  And when I show up myself to retrieve the meals, a friendly employee happily carries two big bags of meals to my car. 
And for the next month, I can prepare dinners for my family without having to reach for ingredients and stand at the kitchen counter chopping stuff endlessly, tasks that don’t come easy these days. 
Now, a few things I don’t like:
Restrooms with wastebaskets that require stepping on something to open them. People dependent on walkers or wheelchairs can’t do this. I have to grab the top of the can to lift it up and toss in my trash. Eeeuww.
Handicapped parking signs that are directly in front of the space, without a curb as a buffer. I’ve “bumped” many a fence or post with my car as I pulled right up to the sign.
Raised bumps near the handicapped entrance to a sidewalk. 
Usually yellow, they are officially called truncated domes and they are required by the Americans with Disabilities Act to let blind people know when a sloped sidewalk meets a street. But they can cause problems for people with walkers, canes or wheelchairs. I’ve read reports of people who have fallen from wheelchairs and been injured. And people with spinal cord injuries can go into painful spasms trying to cross those bumps in their chairs.
I agree with the person who wrote a blog post for California’s Assistive Technology Network  suggesting a compromise -- maybe some smooth spots can be interspersed near the truncated domes for those who are physically disabled.
One of the most popular strip malls in my community has a front row of numerous disabled parking spots (yay), but then a field of truncated domes and cobblestones to get to any of the establishments (boo). Nowhere is there a smooth path as an alternative.
Among the businesses in the mall are a massage place and a yoga studio. For disabled people to get to either of those therapeutic places to relax, they first have to cross a wide sidewalk that is guaranteed to rattle their brains and stress them out. And then exit the same way. 
Bottom line about things that make on my thumbs up or down list: for us handicapped folks, they might make us return customers. Or not. One of the stores in my local shake-your-brains-out strip mall was a specialty grocery store that shut its doors not long after opening. Had it provided a smooth entrance that I could navigate easily with my Stander-walker-thrown-in-the-shopping-cart routine, I think its days wouldn't have been so numbered. I would have spent gobs of money there. And I'm not alone.


  1. What a great post! I shared the information about the walker with friends that live in Leisure World and they were so happy to have knowledge from first hand experiece. Thank you for sharing this! Romy

    1. Thanks Romy. I believe so many people can relate so I'm happy you shared the info!