Sunday, January 31, 2016

1 Step Doesn't Equal Wheelchair Accessible

Welcome to the latest iteration of Cripple Please! This time, I'm going to talk to you all about something that I've heard all too often. Now there are lots of things that irk me in terms of what people who aren't totally familiar deem as accessible. I've even talked about a couple of them in one of my previous posts --HERE--. As usual, I'll expound on more of them in the future, but right now I'm going to talk to you about one of the more irksome of those.

What I'm talking about in this instance, is this irrational belief from some, that having one step still makes a place wheelchair accessible. In my position, I always make a point to make sure that any establishment, or venue, or whatever, that I plan on visiting, is just that. If I can't tell through reading or looking at pictures, I always call. "Hi. I'm planning on coming to your establishment. Is it wheelchair accessible?" So simple, and you'd imagine, just as simple to understand. Wrong. Totally wrong. Sure, most of the time when they get asked that, these places say "yes," and their "yes" is legit. I pull up to the entrance and life goes on. But there are far too many times when I'm given a "yes," only to arrive to the presence of a single step or sometimes two. Didn't I specifically ask about wheelchair accessibility?!? What the hell! After going off and calling whoever it is that I talked to a bunch of expletives, both in my own head mind you, I either call the place directly again, or I'm greeted by someone from inside. The whole situation is then usually compounded. The representative I usually talk to usually first informs me that the place is indeed wheelchair accessible, and that it's only one or two steps. So dumb. After I assure them that there's no way in hell for me to get up the one or two steps in my chair, they then usually offer to help me up the stairs. I don't think I've touched on that particular issue in the past, oh don't you worry I will, but no. I'm not going to trust some stranger to help physically lift my chair. Hell, I won't let most of my family help with that. I then just politely decline the offer, and make other arrangements.

The main point that I'm trying to make, is that one or two steps is in no way wheelchair accessible. That'd be like someone telling you that they have a door for you to enter, only to find out that what they actually have is a window that they'd have to boost you up into in order to make it in. On what planet is a damn window a door? And that's the same premise with steps. Sure, with some wheelchairs, in particular manual ones and a few specific power varieties, a very short, single step is no problem. But still, a step or two should never, and I repeat NEVER, be considered wheelchair accessible. These days, I make sure to relay that message whenever I run into this type of problem, in efforts to educate people who aren't very aware on this subject. I know some people just don't understand, thanks Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff, but I'm hoping me saying something will ultimately adjust their thinking.

There are a bevy of other things that bother the shit out of me, but I will expound upon those in later posts. I just want to reiterate to anyone who doesn't yet get it, that if yours or a place you're in, has a step to get into it and doesn't have an alternate, more accessible entrance, it is not accessible. End of story. It might have wide enough doors, space to maneuver, and other features, but if I can't even make my way inside, quite frankly it doesn't matter. Stairs equaling accessible? Cripple Please!

Monday, January 25, 2016

I'm Driving In The Rain

If you didn't know based on some of my previous posts, I live in Seattle. So this post is about a part of my life that, quite frankly, comes as second nature. Of the 365 days in a year, Seattle has a measurable amount of rain on average 155 of those days. I know a lot of people have this image in their head that we have rain every single day, but still, 155 days is a lot of damn rain, and even I, though I'm totally used to it, grow weary of it. Just the other day I had to travel through it, and as I proceeded to get drenched, I thought to myself, "yeah, I definitely need to share this with my readers." So that's what I'm doing.

Now just like everyone else experiences, when it rains, I get wet. But this is compounded when you're in a wheelchair. Let me explain. When one is standing, the surface that's getting rained on is way smaller than when you're sitting. It's just basic physics, but it can really be a pain in the ass for people like myself. It's especially annoying in my opinion, because it means my shoes get rained on constantly, and from all angles. That's right. I'm complaining about my shoes getting wet. Those that know me know how I feel about my babies, so that's an issue I, and others that may or may not love their shoes as much as I do, have to deal with. When you're walking, your standing above your shoes, which shields them to an extent, and they're being shielded some as you swing them with each step. Now sure, I don't have to walk through puddles, which would devastate me, but you catch my drift. Also, when you travel as fast as I do (I don't get tired obviously so why go slow?), it increases the amount of water I get pegged by. So even when I wear a jacket, my entire lap, legs, and shoes are still going to get drenched regardless. Aww, the life of a wheelchair whipping Seattlite. The only real solution is to wear a poncho, but call me vain if you want to, but I'll pass. Unless it's a damn monsoon of course, but if gets that bad, I'm only going out in it if it's a life or death situation. Not actual life or death, but you know what I mean.

So in a nutshell, being in the rain sucks, and being in the rain while being in a wheelchair can suck even worse. I'm going to need the Myth Busters to come up with some type of electric umbrella thing. Or maybe Xzibit is still pimping rides somewhere. Or I guess I could just put my MacGyver hat back on and hack something together. Either way, would I ever let the rain slow me down? Cripple Please!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Wheelchair Near Death Experience #2 - Why Can't Earth Be Flat!?!

How's life everyone? Well once again, this is about a time when mine was almost over. Now this isn't necessarily the second time in chronological order that I've had such an incident, but it's the second one I'm sharing here. Also, if you haven't read my first such story, found here, while I might not have exactly been in fear of imminent death, the shit was pretty damn scary each time it happened to me.

So my near death experience. This particular instance actually happened only a few months ago. To give you a little background, I have to explain to you how the streets around my house are structured. I essentially live at the bottom of a "U" shaped street. What this means is I have to go uphill whenever I leave the house, and then downhill whenever I'm coming home. Also, once I'm at the top of either side of my street, I then have to travel down a huge hill in either direction to get to the main street in my neighborhood, which is where all the main transportation forms travel, and where all the restaurants and other neighborhood attractions are located. So I really mean it if I ever tell someone "I have to go uphill both ways." Well now that you have an idea of what I have to traverse every single day, and just based on the fact that I'm born and raised in the hilly city of Seattle, you could say that I'm more than comfortable of handling hills. And that includes rain soaked hills. But this time, I met my match with the very hill I've sped down literally over a thousand times before. Why couldn't the earth just be flat like all those poor bastards thought back in the day?!?

On the day that this happened, I was planning on meeting a group of my coworkers at a restaurant on the main road. It had been raining all day, but when I was leaving the house, it hadn't rained for about 20 minutes. After I rolled up the short hill that I live on, I approached the top of one of those huge hills I mentioned earlier. Now as I stated, I've gone down this hill tons of time, but it definitely looks intimidating at the very top. On this particular hill, I travel down the middle of the street. If you're unfamiliar with "Wheelchair Driving 101," I made that up but feel free to use it free of charge, on a lot of streets, the sidewalks can be so bad and unpredictable, it makes more sense, and is just all around safer, to use the street. This can be even more important when traveling up or downhill, since it's not always safe or practical to reverse course or travel laterally. Once you get started, you want to keep going until you get to the top or bottom, and the street, minus potholes of course, gives you way more real estate with which to work. So as I was saying, I got to the top of the hill and started down. Now my wheels weren't very new, so their traction had seen better days, but at first, everything went as usual.  The street was a little wet, but not too bad. After I travelled about 30 feet however, that's when shit started to get real.  I had drifted to the side of the road to avoid any cars that may come or go, but because of that I had drifted into a stream of run off water. When I realized this, while I already was traveling pretty slow, I pulled back in attempt to slow down even further. But that shit didn't work. It actually did the complete opposite. My chair kept speeding up, and I had only traveled about 10% of the full down slope. Sliding through the slick water, I knew my only option was to drive into the grass on the side. Otherwise I most likely would die at the bottom of the hill traveling in excess of 50MPH. I probably wouldn't actually reach those speeds, but you get my drift. On the side I was driving, there was no curb separating the street from the sidewalk. There was a little slope to the grass, but it was something my chair could handle easily. So I steered my chair towards the grass, and I was sure it would work. Wrong again! I hit the slope, and my chair went all the way forward! Like I almost hit my face on the pavement. ONE. OF. THE. SCARIEST. MOMENTS. EVER. Even worse, the chair was still sliding down the hill when this happened. But thank God for seat belts! Also, thank God for having a rear-heavy chair with metal footrests. For the next 10-15 seconds, or what seemed like an eternity at the time, my chair constantly tilted all the way forward, only to tip back up from the footrests and the weight on the back. All the while, it was slowing down, but it continued sliding down the hill. Back and forth. Back and forth. It was a horrible feeling. I wouldn't go so far as to say my life flashed before my eyes, but I just knew I was going to bite the dust. The whole time, I was hoping that my seatbelt would hold, or that my chair wouldn't ultimately flip over. Once the teetering came to a halt, I was leaning all the way forward, the chair only being supported by it's footrests, and I wasn't able to reach the controller. Here I was stuck, on the side of a road I've traveled tons of times, probably only about 1 block from my front door. Horrible. But I was definitely alive and unscathed. After realizing that, and realizing that I was immobile, I did what any person should do in the same situation. I started yelling my ass off for help. Yeah that's right. And damnit I'd do it again. Hell, you would too. After a few seconds, a cab actually passed and came to a stop about 20 feet away. I assumed the driver saw me and was going to help, so I stopped yelling. It sat there for a few seconds, and then you know what? The bastard drove off! "What the fuck" is exactly what I was thinking and I'm sure it's what you're thinking too. Man I wish I would've had the presence of mind to get that license plate number. So since that ship had sailed, I got back to my yell fest. Luckily for me, occupants of the nearest home across the street heard me. The couple scrambled towards me and pulled both myself and the chair back to our upright positions. They then asked me if I was OK a bunch of times, to which I assured them I was, and instead of continuing down the hill, I took my ass back home. I just did that to regain my bearings, and then soon after, I took an alternate, albeit extremely round-about but also safer and not as steep, route down to the restaurant to meet me coworkers. The day went on, and I told my coworkers all about why I was late and why I instantly knew I wanted to order a mammoth margarita.

So there you have it. I almost died basically on the same street I live on. That would've been embarrassing. But since I didn't die, I'm able to give you guys this awesome story at my expense. But then again, would I have it any other way? Cripple Please!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Trust Me, I Know What The Hell I'm Doing!

So I have been in a wheelchair my entire life. Well technically not my entire life. I got my first wheelchair, which was manual, at the age of 3, and then ever since I was 5, I've used an electric or power wheelchair. Now I don't remember much about my very first experiences in a power wheelchair. I just know I was in a manual for a while, and then one day I was whipping around on 1.5 horsepower. So seeing that I'm 29 years old now, I've be driving for about 24 years. And as such, when you consider that I use my wheelchair every single day, and pretty much all day outside of sleeping and the usual stuff, I would say that I've maneuvered pretty much everywhere. Not to toot my own horn, but in between just the normal daily wheeling and dealing, I've also participated, and won multiple times mind you, in Power Soccer both in the States and in Canada, in the now defunct (I think) Washington Games, and the Special Olympics. Basically what I'm trying to say is, and no, I'm not going to be modest, that I'm both pretty damn experienced and pretty damned skilled when it comes to getting where I need to get. I would also argue, that a majority of people like myself who are life-long or long-time wheelchair users, would agree that they too are quite skilled in the art of Wheel-Chair-Do. I understand that one's ability varies depending on dexterity and physical capabilities, and that some aren't capable of driving as well of others, but I think you all get my drift.

With all that being said, said, I absolutely hate it when people look at me like I have no fucking clue how to drive this damn thing. Let me give you an example. I'm driving down the sidewalk, like I've done a billion times all over Seattle, and someone is walking down the same sidewalk towards me in the opposite direction. And before you ask or wonder, I'm traveling at a normal "walking" pace. Now where was I? Oh yeah, so this is a wide enough sidewalk where we can both pass each other comfortably, and I'm already hugging the right side, basically showing "hey, I've moved over so you have enough room too." But then you know what this guy does? He walks all the way off of the sidewalk and into the grass, giving me the whole damn sidewalk!! Really?!? I need all that space?!? So I look like I'm going to commit vehicular homicide?!? Is there some wheelchair gang that is taking out legs and toes all around the country?!? I didn't think so. I think I know what the hell I'm doing! But if that didn't paint a vivid, yet also pretty damn annoying, enough picture for those of you reading this that can walk, let me ask you a question. How many times has some walked up to you and said "man you walk good! How'd you learn how to step around with such precision?" Exactly. Never. However, every time someone does the asinine thing of asking someone in a wheelchair, and I'm not talking about someone who's learning to drive one for the first time, those types of questions, that's essentially what they're doing. They're asking someone who's used a wheelchair most of the day, every day, for years, how did they get so skilled. How the hell do you think?!? Even yesterday, I had a woman say "it amazes me how good you guys are at moving around in those things." She was an older woman, so I didn't go off necessarily, but I had to tell her "it's just like you walking around. It's just second nature." Jeez.

So let this be a lesson to you all. Driving around in a wheelchair, for most of us, is just like walking around for you. We do it everyday, and have been doing it everyday for a while. It's said that practice makes perfect, and dammit we've had as much practice as is humanly possible. "How'd I get so go?" Cripple Please!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

2016...The Year of the Cripple!

Happy New Year everyone. I hope you all had a great 2015, because that shit is over! We are now officially in 2016. And while I could say the same for every year, I mean I am crippled myself, I'm going to call this the Year of the Cripple. Now I'm not referencing something in particular that is supposed to happen. Sure we're having the Presidential elections, there's the Olympics and Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, and Marvel is finally going to add my favorite superhero of all-time (Spider-Man!!!) to it's connected cinematic universe, but I'm not talking about any of those things. But what I can tell you, is that every week, and yes EVERY WEEK, I'll have a brand new Cripple Please post for you. Now for those that have been reading this blog since I've had it, I know I've been slacking just a smidge. But those of you that have been reading also know that I've always got something both honest, and pretty damn interesting I must say, each time I drop a new issue. So trust me when I say, you want won't to miss any of it this year. Whether it's a dumb question that I, and I'm sure other crippled people like myself, get asked, something that I've seen, heard, or been told that I find offensive or have had to check someone about, more of my near death experiences, or whatever else comes to mind, I'm going to keep it coming AT LEAST once a week in this two thousandth and sixteenth year. So thanks to all of those out there who have read my blog in the past, to all of those that have told others about my blog, and to those of you who have never read my blog yet, but will in the future. I totally appreciate it.

Now before I go, I've got to start off the year right, so I've got to touch upon one of the many stupid questions I get asked. Well let me first say that technically no question is a stupid question. I was taught that if you don't know something, you should ask. So I guess technically it's flawed to call this particular question "stupid." Either way, the question, that I get asked quite a bit surprisingly, is "how do you keep your shoes so fresh?" Now like I mentioned, if you don't know something, unless it's incredibly insensitive or just plain rude to do so, go ahead and ask. And I guess to some I do have a pretty intense shoe collection. Also, I guess I appreciate it that people don't assume that just because I'm in a wheelchair, that I can't walk at all. But with that being said...Really?!? I'm going to go out on a limb and say that if you ever see someone in a wheelchair who has older styled/released shoes that appear basically new, or always has what seem to be new or basically new shoes on, it's safe to say that they're like that because they don't or can't walk on them. Now I would never say "dumb question" to the face of those that ask me that question from time to time, but it amazes me how often I'm asked the same question. I know they say that "assume" means making an ass of you and me, but just assume that the person doesn't walk on them the next time you think about asking this question. Really. I'll continue to accept any and all compliments on my foot ware though. Personally, while I love being crippled for a variety of reasons, the shoe thing has got to be in the top 5 for me. I'll go into more detail about that in a later post, but it's an awesome perk in my opinion. But as to how I keep them so pristine...I don't walk on them. Pretty simple right? If you don't understand how that works, let me break it down for you. Go out, and buy a pair of shoes. Now when you get home, take the shoes out of the box. Now, while holding the shoes which have been taken out of the box, sit down in any chair of your choice. Be sure to make sure that the chair that you're in has either some sort of foot rest to place your feet on, or use something to serve as a makeshift footrest/foot stool. Next, put the shoes on, and just sit there with your feet on the footrest or foot stool. Keep sitting. Keep sitting some more. A little bit longer. Done. Now look down. Notice how your shoes are still basically brand new? Isn't it crazy how your shoes are still in amazing condition when your feet never touch the ground?!? Now imagine if your feet were always in that same position all the time! Your shoes would basically be brand new all the time. Other then normal oxidation that affects all materials, no change would ever come to them. Isn't science grand? So the next time you see me or one of my crippled brothers or sisters, and that question is on the tip of your tongue, I hope you hear these words in the back of your mind...."Cripple Please!"
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