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Accessibility Matters


July 28, 2010 by wcobserver

By Terry Ropp

This is part two of Larry’s post accident adventures. He is still using a walker for longer distances but no longer has a handicap sticker for parking. I am pretty much done playing “Nancy Nurse” but still enjoy my role as the tyrant physical therapist, biting sarcasm and all.

While Kashmir was here, she took over most of the physical therapy responsibilities including the sarcasm. She loves Larry dearly but at one point, in true Grandmom fashion, harped, “Straighten up. We have no hunchbacks in this family!” Larry just shook his head in dismay while trying to hide a grin. I don’t think he wants another accident if just to avoid our brand of encouragement.

Through this experience we have learned a great deal about what handicapped people face, though our experience is in no way equal to what most face. Nonetheless, you or someone you know may profit from what we have learned.

Just after the accident I had two rounds of Praxis assessments in Jonesboro. Larry could drive because his right foot was fine, and it made him feel less useless. I really didn’t want him home by himself so off we went. The biggest lesson we learned is that handicap-accessible rooms in hotels are not all equal. Most have a wide door to the bathroom with a raised toilet and a hand held shower nozzle in a tub. That is not nearly sufficient. Retrofitting a room in older hotels just doesn’t work very well. A walk-in shower and maneuvering room in the room itself are just two of the other essentials. The key to getting the right kind of room is to look for the newest though not necessarily most expensive hotels and to ask questions. Rooms that are accessible and have two beds are a big help because the handicapped person often needs to sleep alone due to pain and other physical issues. The newer hotels come with much better accommodations because they are built on the understanding that a handicap room needs to be larger.

Restaurants also turned out to be a challenge. Handicap parking is not always close to the door, and restrooms are often far away from the entrance so that even if you get a table by the entrance, getting to and using the facilities can be quite a challenge due to distance and cramped space between tables. We found that restaurants are sometimes willing to accommodate you by letting you enter through an emergency exit, which is usually closer to the restroom facilities. Another traveling tip is to park right by the front door of gas stations and ask to check out the accessibility of the facilities and if they will let you stay parked by the door for that time. Most are more than willing to help.

Finally, if you ever plan to build a new house use wider doorways and hallways, push rather than turn handles, and push light switches. Having a shower that is wheel chair accessible and higher toilets in all bathrooms is also really important. Further, while builders may squabble with you, a house can be successfully built with no steps and no lips to entrances. This was one of the best and most important features we demanded when building our home. We were very fortunate to have such a home when Larry’s accident occurred.

While I hope you never have need of all this information, there are muddy road shoulders and culverts anywhere. Just ask Larry.



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