Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Another disability bathroom story

If you're waiting in line to the wheelchair accessible bathroom be prepared to find that an actual person in a wheelchair may actually be inside. And that it might take a bit longer. And no- I have to say constant knocking on the door doesn't speed it up and neither does saying things like: "There's a big line" and "Everybody is waiting". I don't know what to tell you. Perhaps go wait in front of the general access bathroom that was designed especially for you (because I know for a fact that it wasn't designed for me). Tuesday night. Another bathroom story, my usual hang out place for drinks and socializing- The Top restaurant. As always everybody tries to get into the wheelchair accessible cabin, separate from both men's and women's restroom and the only one in the place, not because they are in wheelchairs but because they think they are smarter and are able to beat the heavy traffic of the regular ones. As usual there's somebody inside inside as I await my turn, no surprise- it's an able-bodied hipster boy but I don't say a word. A minute after I get in, the knocking begins. And it's not simply knocking- it's really heavy banging on the door. On few occasions someone tried to forcefully pull the door out, I'm surprised the knob was still in as I left and luckily there was a metal bolt on the door.  Let me tell you, it doesn't help me if I'm rushed. Often I'm in a very delicate position balancing my body weight transferring in and out and it takes some focus. Welcome to the world of Cerebral Palsy. A few years ago a journalism student was doing a photo project about me and he wanted to follow me into the bathroom. "People need to see how you pee" he said half jokingly. I didn't let him in, because I believed that people needed to see no such thing. Over the years though, I started to see his point. "People" don't know how much effort and focus moving around requires. There's always some planning and some figuring out. At what angle to I come up with my wheelchair? Where do I grab? Where do I pull? Where do I put my hands, my feet and my knees? See, where you walk up to the toilet you pull your pants down, sit, stand and pull your pants up again. My knees are spastic. They rarely go beyond the 90 degree angle position, meaning I can stand on my legs a little bit, but only long enough to transfer and quickly sit on something else. I need to have just enough space between the wall and the toilet to turn a bit, pull myself up on it all while getting undressed. And for me it's quite an exercise so before I do it I need to brace myself and gather just the right amount of strength. Often as I do it, something goes wrong. The chair turns a bit sideways as I'm already up, I lose grip on my equally spastic right hand, my foot slips or I fail to properly land securely while transferring my body weight. In most places, the toilet paper dispenser is right on the level of my knee caps. At the top specifically, the toilet seat moves from left to right. When I push myself into it I really need to watch out that my skin doesn't get caught. Again I pull myself up by maneuvering my body weight side to side in small movements. I doesn't take an hour. It doesn't take thirty minutes. But it takes more than ten. And that's assuming no other complication happen. Sometimes I miscalculate my center of gravity, come at a wrong angle or lose grip. Sometimes I slip. In those situations I end up on my knees or on the floor and the goal often is not to land in the puddle of urine. Then I need to muster some more strength to roll over, find a place I can securely pull myself up to stand while pulling my chair towards me with the other hand. If it sounds complicated it's because it is. Have you tried pulling your pants up while sitting down? Of course you haven't I dare you to try. We all have different levels of mobility so we do things differently and it may take longer. It is also worth remembering that while I'm not one of these people there are individuals with disabilities who have specific hygiene and sanitary needs and procedures that also take some time. But you wouldn't know that, you pull up your pants and go. There was some banging and yelling at me inside last night. When I finally opened the door it was one of the waiters waiting with either cleaning supplies or refills. "Where you the one rushing me, Larry?"- I asked. "I was the most recent"- he replied - "But there were other people waiting". " Hey, what can I say,"-  I shrugged- "It will take as long as it will take

1 comment:

  1. Your description is giving an overdue deep inside view for even deeper understanding. The more pictures would be the more useful for architects and designers ~ and last but not least ~ able-bodied "followers" your "daily needs" could be. Lack of knowledge is causing insufficient empathy...