Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Being Less Abled....

I have always hated the word "Disabled" so I am not using it.  Yes, I cannot do the things I did before, and yes some of that may be temporary, but I don't feel "Dis" anything.  I am "Less abled " than I was before.  I can still do a ton of things for myself, but this world is not set up for me or other like me who are not fully functioning.

I was shocked at the hospital when I began to discover small things that were making my life more difficult as I tried to get around.  Sometimes it was as simple as the toilet paper dispenser was set so far down on the wall in the restroom that you had to lean way over to even reach it.  OMG, I have a back injury here people?  Yes, the nurses said many times people fall trying to take care of one of life's little needs.  Totally Crazy.  The hospital showers were another story.  Nicely tiled, yes you could get a shower chair or wheel chair in there, but guess what when used the water goes everywhere.  It essentially floods the bathroom.  Why?  Well as I could see it the floors are not adequately slanted so the water would go towards the drain.  Duh?  So every time I showered I had to have a towel barricade and then assistance so I didn't fall.

Yes, all the nice hospital staff were aware, but what could they do?   Hospital many times were built before the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act - Signed into law by Bush Sr in 1990) and then remodeled over and over again.  They worked with what they had, but my thought would be to make sure "Less Abled" people are involved in the design of say the Rehab unit when you decide to make any upgrades.  Seems so simple, yet mostly organizations and businesses just follow the written government standards under the ADA for accessibility.  Has anyone even asked if they got it right?

One of the true good things that I got for being less abled was a special parking permit.  I have never been one of those people who had to park up front in any case.  However, when you are not able to get around as well as you use to it is very necessary to have the ability to park in spot that allows you to have a bigger parking spot to get out a walker, a wheel chair or to just get out of the car.  Being closer to the destination is relative as many of the stores, offices, etc... apparently followed the letter of the ADA law on accessibility verses looking at what  would make most sense for the customers coming to the establishments.  Try looking at it from their perspective folks and maybe you might just rethink what you have going on.

Another observation is that apparently here in Washington it is relatively easy to get one of these parking permits.  All you have to do is have a doctor sign off on one and it seems pretty much everyone has one.  Yup, I know my Dad has one, but he is going to be 77 years old and has a bad back, etc.... Some of the others getting out of their cars do not appear as less abled as I would think??  Just like a prescription for anything these types of necessary accommodations can and do get misused I am thinking.  My permit is only for 6 months as I view my need as totally temporary.  Do others see it that way or as a way to park up close?  By the looks of it at many locations when all of the parking spots are filled I would say pretty much many, many people are less abled?

I have found in my current state that people look at you differently when you are less abled.  It is not overt, nor is it mean.  I believe they are just curious.  Since for the most part I don't look too bad off I think they are trying to assess "hey what is wrong with this lady?"  I know it is just human nature so I don't let it bother me.  When they see the brace then it usually clicks for them why an otherwise, normal looking woman would be using a cane, a walker or parking in special spot.  Because she has to.  The brace it turns out  is a conversation starter as I have had several people quickly say "you broke your back, right?"  Yup, and then the story is told.  Let's face it my story is a little more glamorous than most.  Not everyone rides horses and the usual culprit for these types of injuries is an auto accident I am finding. 

Being "Less Abled"means that everyday when I go into the able bodied world I must chart my course.  I have to plan access to and from locations, how to carry things like a purse, a brief case or purchases, do I have someone to assist?  In rehab they have you spend time going all over the hospital and outside of it to ensure the basics, but let's face it there is way more out there in the scary able bodied world that is just not easily navigable.  I for one realize why people become home bound when they are not as able bodied.  So how can we change that?  I  have a new found interest in exploring just that............

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