What Were They Thinking?

by Kristal Hardin on July 1, 2006 - 4:52pm

QUEST Vol. 13, No. 4

Unfortunately, in the land of the disabled there are no “one size fits all” accommodations. But common sense should be a factor.

Kristal Hardin

I appreciate handicapped bathroom stalls and their helpful rails — but who decided the best place for the toilet paper dispenser is above the bar that’s supposed to be my helping hand? If most disabled people use the bar as I do, it’s to get some leverage to get up and off so as to go on about my business.

When there’s a super-large-roll toilet paper dispenser blocking the area above the bar, the only oomph I get is a head bang into plastic and a bounce back onto the porcelain surface I was trying to escape. Maybe the rear rail works for others, but I just haven’t gotten the hang of a baseball pitcher’s warm-up wind to reach behind me and somehow propel myself up and forward. I’ve become pretty bendable with the muscle loss, but Gumby I’m not.

Then there are those 90-degree ramps that enable businesses to qualify as accessible. For people like me who walk with difficulty, they’re like taking a miniature mountain climb. The downhill walk can be just as dangerous as the uphill walk is difficult.

Recently, I stopped at a rest area in the flatlands of Florida. When I first saw the steep ramp to the restroom, I thought it was somebody’s idea of a joke. Well, the joke was on me.

I huffed and puffed my way to the top with the aid of my daughter. On the walk down, it occurred to me to just lie down and roll the rest of the way, but it’s next to impossible to get me back into a standing position. I did make mention of this dilemma on their comment card.

If enough of us speak up, we can raise awareness of what “accessible” really means. There’s no single answer for every disabled person, but there are solutions that can work for the majority.

The Hawaiians call the art of conveying one’s thoughts to another “talk story.” Those of us with disabilities have to “talk plenty story” to those with whom we share the land — our able-bodied neighbors.

Kristal Hardin, Tampa, Fla.
Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy

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