Saturday, April 2, 2016

Another Complaint: Not Really Accessible

C'mon, you know me. I'm sure you're not surprised. I've found something else to spout off about.

This time it's Arizona's idea of ADA compliant toilets. And yes, I'm picking on Arizona especially since I've seen better in and around Minnesota.

I'll admit it: I'm well-spoiled when it comes to something in the home. Not only have we changed all the toilets, Minnesota and Arizona, to the highest available, namely 16", but bars have been put up, or their equivalent. Further, the Joint Clinic folks hook us up with booster toilet seats with side handles so we can get in and out easily ourselves with a minimum of pain. It's on a loaner basis, free while you need them after surgery and then turn them back in for the next person who needs them. They offer bath/shower stools, walkers, etc. as well on loan.

With Paul here visiting, and me playing tourist guide, I've been seeing a lot of what is provided behind the excuse of a wheelchair sign, and worse, what "normal" toilets offer. Not every destination actually has ADA facilities.

The first experience was up in my favorite rec center. They had an event a couple Saturdays ago where club members showed off to the general public just what we do so they can see if they're interested. I got tucked safely back in a corner to mind cash sales. But nature has a habit of disregarding shift hours, so I wheeled down the hall. I was already smart enough to take another member along with me. It was my first day off the walker and I didn't trust my balance and strength in pushing/pulling open the heavy door between restroom and hallway. Once in my stall, I found that yes, it did have bars around the sides. However, the top of the seat was maybe 14" from the floor. Just like every other one in both rows. It was painful enough going down. Coming up was a whole 'nother issue, both time consuming while I tried different options of pulling on bars to find one remotely possible (not to mention hoping for least pain), and excruciating.

Since then I've tried - and even rejected - quite a number of different "ADA" restrooms around the state. Some were private like restaurants. Others were at scenic attractions, local, state and federal. None had seats that were high enough for easy up. (Down was always possible: if the body failed you, gravity assisted.)

Bars were often too far away from where I was sitting to offer any leverage for pulling up, and none at all for pushing up, the motion that is actually the one which makes the whole thing possible. I wasn't quite ready - aka desperate enough - to use the toilet itself to push off against. That's regardless of whether I knew there was a soap dispenser which actually held soap.

Now I do trust that as time passes and the knees heal, I will be able to bend them back to a tighter bend and use more of my leg muscles to stand up. But four weeks into the first, so looking at another twelve weeks minimum with issues if they get done immediately sequentially, this will be an ongoing problem.

My worst problem getting up, it turns out, was at a neighborhood patio bar-b-q. No toilets involved. I'd had enough bad experiences with other peoples' ideas of what was OK to sit on that I'd gotten cautious.  I selected a chair that looked tall enough and sturdy enough, having metal side arms. My mistake was in not taking into consideration that is was on rocker bottoms. So leaning forward actually lowered the front of the chair out from under the knees I was needing it to support. I knew I was going to need major help up and out of this chair, but I didn't quite know yet just how to ask for what I needed from my helpers.

Big mistake!

One neighbor got behind my chair and as I tried to rise, actually pushed the back of the chair forward. He thought he was helping, like rolling me up and out and forward. What he was actually doing was forcing me to bend the bad knee into a much much tighter bend than it has been able to do since surgery, if not much longer.

The person in front offered his arms and simply pulled me forward without lifting, compounding the bend.

I'm not sure if the noise I made would be classified as a scream, but I don't ever want to be in a position where I have to do it again in order to judge. I had to stand without moving for nearly a full minute for the pain to subside enough to be able to take a single step, and nearly got knocked over as the same helpful neighbor "assisted" Steve out of his rocker the same way. Steve stumbled a few fast steps forward until he was brought up short by one of the pillars supporting the patio roof.

What I will share both with future helpers and with you if you're in the same position is this. From behind, pull back on the chair so the front lifts, giving support under the knees. From the front, and maybe taking two people, grab old on the upper arm, just below the shoulder, and lift straight up so the knees can straighten. Once fully standing, ask if the person is ready for you to let go. Once balance is achieved, they should be able to walk away from the chair as well as they were able to walk to it, meaning with or without a cane, walker, or however they got there in the first place.

And for extended traveling while working on healing, I'm giving serious thought to astronaut diapers!

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