So I am moving into my basement during the renovation. In reality I am moving into a cave. It is 99% full of stuff. There is only a narrow path to get from one end of the basement to the end – without turning around – in my chair. But that is beside the point. I called Comcast because I wanted to get it in the basement while ensconced there. The cable guy came , looked all around and claimed it was not possible. Several people have since volunteered to drop the line to the basement I need. If I had a better choice I’d be rid of Comcast. I will be looking again at other options.
Until I started to redesign my condo, I never realized how many access issues were actually not issues of ableism but instead sexism. The most obvious evidence of this is that kitchen cabinets are set at a height best suited for men. When I could stand, I could not reach the upper cabinets and the counters were uncomfortably high. Sure, I could use a step stool, but who really wants to.
After the obvious, I realized my thermostat was too high. I never could see it easily, but from a chair it became useless. The electric breaker box is also too high for me to reach, in a chair or not. Out of the reach of children, but also out of the reach of shorter adults.
Other things I knew, or started to think about differently were light switches, light plugs, peep-holes, door bells, window locks, etc. 3 inches lower would make a world ofdifference in my ability to be independent and would make them inaccessible for others.
There are a lot of things that I cannot reach because the wheelchair is in the way. The first thing I confronted was the oven. The door opens down and it is hard to reach into. There is a solution. Bosch and Frigidaire make a side swing oven. I think almost anyone would like this better.
The last inaccessible convenience that crossed my mind was the water shut-off valves. Toilets, sinks, dishwasher, and the whole house has them. Most I cant reach because they are in the back of a cupboard or behind the toilet. And they usually require multiple twists to shut them off.The solution to this was easy. Quarter-turn valves. I grew up with compression valves and didn’t realize another kind existed. The other need was to have a whole house shut-off valve where I could reach it easily in all weather from my chair. (They are usually outside.)
I’ll go into greater depth about all these things in future posts, but I wanted to point about that some issues of access are issues not just for people with disabilities, but also shorter adults, women in particular.
This is going to be the beginning of a new blog. If I want to continue to live independently, I need a place that meets my disability needs. Here I will detail the journey from the first wall torn down to the end. I will discuss the intricacies of the design and why specific choices were made. It is my hope this will open people’s eyes up to what real accessibility can mean.
First, you need to understand what disabilities I and my son are up against.
Mobility. I used to get around by holding onto furniture but those days are past. I use a power chair inside the house and a mobility scooter outside. I cannot walk, but I can still transfer independently.
Vision. I have diabetic macular edema. I can’t see color well. Unless print is large and there is high contrast, I can’t read it. Glare is my undoing. My world is like a grey cloudy day.
Hearing. I consider myself deaf. I have difficulty hearing the volume of sound, but I can often hear, but still can’t make sense of it. I can hear a sound and have no idea where it is coming from.
Learning Disabilities. I reverse numbers and letters. If you tell me something I might write it in reverse.
Pain. I have a lot of pain issues. Some of it I have had for decades from a fall off a loft bed when my son was an infant. But other pan is more recent dues to circulation issues.
Intellectual Disability. My son has Down syndrome. He is a tremendous help to me when strength is what is needed, but not as helpful with common sense. Simple solutions are better for us both.
Mental Health. My son also has dissociative identity disorder. There are some things we need to give us safety, sound barriers, and space from each other and the community.
So we have a lot on our plate.I am hopeful I can live here until I die, and my son can continue to live here until he dies with critical support staff in place.
The goal of this blog is to change the way people think about accessibility (and I don’t mean ADA). Most of the things I need really aren’t that different than what most people would want if they gave it some thought.