Dear People Who Design Public Restrooms

Dear People Who Design Public Restrooms:

Please stop trying to overly modernize public restroom. I understand that the growing trend is to have everything completely automatic, mechanical and green.  And to an extent, I totally get that.  Hey, I’m hip.  I’m in the now.  I like modern conveniences as much as the next girl.  But when it comes to modern conveniences in the restroom, my “next girl” is a handicapped one.  Not an able-bodied one.

Ok, let me explain what I’m talking about.  Let’s start with automatic flushing toilets.  For you to really understand what I’m going to be talking about, I’m going to need you to go do an experiment.  First, please go sit in an ice bath until your legs are numb.  Then, have someone tie weights around your ankle so there’s some good dead weight around them.  Now, go sit on a toilet and try to pull up and/or down your pants, without using your legs.  I’ll wait….

On the off chance you did not do that, I’ll break it down.  When you are paralyzed, pulling on or off pants is difficult.  It requires a lot of back and forth motions.  A lot of shifting from side to side.  Depending on the pant, it can be fast or slow.  (Really, it depends on just how skinny of a jean I’m wearing that day.)  The electric toilets are meant to sensor when a person moves from the seat and to flush accordingly.  Last week I was in a restroom and the toilet probably flushed 27 times between my pulling my pants down and back up.  Let’s ignore how embarrassing this was when I thought about what other women in there must have thought about what was going on in the stall.  It’s a huge waste of water.  (And probably electricity.  I’m not entirely sure how these things all work.)  But it can be even worse.  Last year (and this is the hubs’ favorite story) the toilet flushed while I was still pulling up my pants. And…the toilet overflowed.  While I was still on it.  I’ve never jumped so fast into my wheelchair.  I was pissed.  Almost quite literally.

Let’s switch from the electronic toilets to the electronic hand dryers.  How nice, you want to save trees.  I love trees.  And forests.  I’m looking at trees right now as I type this.  So, I can’t possibly have a problem with electric dryers, right?  Wrong.  In a bathroom with electric dryers, they are rarely right next to the sink.  This means that after I wash my hands, I have to wheel to them.  This means my hands are wet.  And then they’re on my push rims.  Now my push rims are wet.  that makes them slippery.  And, if I then dry my hands with the dryer, they’re going to get wet again when I use my push rims to exit said restroom.  It’s bad enough for a person in a wheelchair.  Imagine a person on crutches, a cane or a walker.  That’s just straight up dangerous.  So, while I appreciate that you’re trying to be environmentally friendly, how about being disabled friendly?  Maybe you could buy paper towels from companies who replant trees.  That would be both environmentally friendly and disabled friendly.  And if something like that doesn’t already exist, I whole-heartedly give you the right to start the company and make millions.  You’re welcome.

Finally, I find it somewhat ironic that you’re trying to be cutting edge and modern with the electric toilets and hand dryers, but most bathrooms don’t have automatic doors for disabled convenience.  Now, I probably wouldn’t use the button anyway, since I don’t in places that do have them.  But, why go half-assed with the electronics?  You’re going for modern with the others, why not at least add the one piece of electronics that would actually make a handicapped person’s life a bit better?

Sincerely,

A flushed-on, wet handed paraplegic.

Wyoming Wheelchair Accessible (is sometimes not so much)

It’s funny how different people perceive “wheelchair accessible”.  In California, people are quick to not label things in that manner because they don’t want to be sued.  (Ok, I don’t know if that’s entirely true.  What I do know is that California is too litigious and people want easy dollars.)  In Wyoming, it’s the opposite.  Blue curbs have no ramps adjoining them.  It’s like “Hey, we gave you the space designated.  Figure out the rest on your own.”  It’s just a different mindset up here.  People are tough.  They’re resilient.  Where I live in California, you have to fight for a handicapped parking space because every person over 72 has a placard and thinks that old = handicapped.  In Wyoming, cowboys are farming into their 90’s.  “I don’t need no stinking handicapped spot!” is the mentality of every weathered cowboy and nimble old biddy.  They’re tough.  They’re good people.

While I do love that mentality (because I like to think that I am a pretty tough chick) it does sometimes give me some concern.  For example, we rented a cabin for our stay.  We like to have a home base, a place where our dogs feel at home.  They’re not really hotel dogs because they like to bark at noises.  So cabins are good for us.  The cabin we rented didn’t have a picture of the front entry way, but the owner assured me that there was only a little lip that I could easily jump.  The rest of the house was easy access.  We were still going to bring my ramps, just in case.  Unless I can see that there are no steps, I get uneasy.  The owner told the hubs that they built a ramp for me to the front door.  (In addition to being tough, the people in Wyoming are so super nice!) The owners of the cabin we rented last year also built me a ramp.  (The people in Wyoming are also super handy.)

Cabin

When we got to the cabin, we saw the ramp.  It was really nice and sturdy.  I’m also glad they built it, because it was more than just a lip that I could jump.  It was a full on step that would have been pretty difficult.  The cabin was really nice.  The living room, dining room and kitchen were all very open and easy for me to get around with.  If the cabin had been only those rooms, then yes, I would agree that it was wheelchair accessible.

However, cabins are more than just the common area.  They’re also comprised of bedrooms and bathrooms.  [Do you see where I am going with this?]  I tried to get into the master bedroom.  I didn’t fit through the sliding glass doors leading to it.  Ruh-roh.  That’s OK!  There are 2 other bedrooms! I thought to myself.  Or, possibly said it outloud to the hubs, trying to reassure him.  I tried one of the other bedroom doors and it was easy to get through.  Problem solved!

Or, was it?  Let’s check out the 2nd bathroom, where the shower is.  Awesome…the door is about 2 inches too small for my wheelchair to get through.  So, if this bathroom is too small and I can’t get into the master, how the heck am I going to go to the bathroom?!  The hubs and one of our friends who had come up with us decided to try taking the sliding door into the master off of the track.  With the door gone, I was now able to get into the master bedroom.  (We just had to hope that the hubs could get it back on by himself cause our friends were only here for 1 week.)  Next came the master bathroom door test.  Score!  I can fit into that bathroom!  Everything worked out!

Or had it?  The master bathroom didn’t have a shower.  Only a tub.  A big, deep, jetted tub.  How the heck am I supposed to use that?!  I can’t fit into the other bathroom with the shower.  And this bathroom only has a tub.  So…my options were to either not shower for a month or channel my inner Wyoming resilience and figure it out.  Getting into the tub wasn’t an issue.  I’m able to transfer to the ledge, put my legs over and lower myself in.  (Luckily I have great upper body strength.  Otherwise, it wouldn’t have worked.)  Getting out is where the issue lies.  I had to prop up on my knees, hoist myself over the ledge (where I felt like I was going to fall head first into the toilet), then twist around to my back and sit up.  It’s so awkward and so hard.  But, I was able to do it.  (Again, so glad that I have upper body strength!)  (Oh, while taking a bath is nice, the tub is so big that you can’t even fill it halfway because the hot water runs out.  And to wash my hair, I feel like an original homesteader who has to use a bucket to pour water over their head.  When I get home, I’m taking an hour long shower just to enjoy the ease of it all.  Sorry California drought.)

While I’m able to figure it all out with minimal some complaining, the point is that I did figure it out.  I usually don’t mind when things are an inconvenience for me, because I figure such is life.  I hate being an inconvenience on other people though.  Case in point: we are actually sleeping in one of the spare rooms because the bed in the master is also too high for me to get into alone and the hubs had to hoist me up into it.  Not bad when we go to bed.  But, when I have to go to the restroom at 1am and then wake him up to get back into bed?  That’s an inconvenience.  Mind you, he doesn’t complain.  He helps me with everything very willingly.  But, I still feel bad.  (Last year’s cabin was the same, so I always ended up sleeping on the couch after my early morning bathroom break.  I suppose I could have done that this year too, but it was just easier to switch rooms.)

The other point is that just because someone says a place is wheelchair accessible doesn’t mean it is, because until you’re actually having to navigate in a chair, you really don’t know if things are all that accessible.  Until I was in the chair, I wouldn’t have thought of some of these problems.  Now they’re obstacles that I can’t avoid and am forced to tackle.  At least I try to do it with humor, because what other option do I have?

New is not always better

It’s funny the relationship one creates with a gym they like.  I know I’ve mentioned my love affair with the gym I joined a couple months ago.  What I didn’t realize until being away is how much this gym has become a part of my life.  Sure I hang out there (read: bug and annoy them) all the time. But, it goes beyond that.  I am my best me there because they all push me.  When Smiles took us on the tour of the gym, he said everyone there got along and it was like a family.  I didn’t believe him.  But it is.  It’s like one big, happy (albeit sometimes incestuous [the stories I could tell on that but won’t for fear of retaliation in the form of torture during training sessions…]) family.

What made me realize this and be kind of sad about missing them all for so long was joining the gym in Wyoming and doing a personal training session today.  The gym up here is small and very nice.  The owner, who is also the trainer, is also very nice.  But, it was just so different.  Her workout was fun.  I got to throw weighted medicine balls and do some other fun core workout stuff.  (I did tell her that her workout was more fun than Gun Show’s.)  But, sometimes different is not better.  I got away with too much.  I could easily distract her.  And if I got tired, I just stopped and took a break.  She didn’t scold me.  I was almost expecting an immediate “What are you doing?” Followed by a “Come on!  Let’s Go!” GS stays on me.  My arms could seriously tear out of the sockets and I’d get a kick to the wheelchair and an exasperated “Let’s GO!”  (Ok, if we’re being honest here, sometimes I do take breaks just to annoy him.  But, he knows it, which is why he doesn’t show me any pity.)  I was also almost expecting a “Why is she taking a break?!” from Ninja Trainer.  (Ninja Trainer is not my trainer, but he’s one at my gym.  And from what I hear, he’s a beast who feeds on the tears of his clients.  But he’s also a ninja because I won’t even see him, but I’ll hear a “Why is she taking a break?!” or “Thumbs!” and it’s like…where the heck is he and how does he know?!)

So, while today was fun and it was good to be working with a trainer because I just do workout better when I am not alone, it made me miss my gym family back home.**  I do have a feeling that I will be sore tomorrow though.  I’m not saying she went easy on me.  Because she did make me work hard and do a ton of crazy core stuff.  It just wasn’t the same.  And I’m a creature of habit.

**Please remind me that I said this when I am home and my ass is getting kicked by GS for all my sass and being away for so long.

Old legs, new tricks

I hit a major plateau in my paralysis recovery.  Or, rather, the plateau was in my mental state regarding my recovery.  I became rather complacent in my wheeled life and kind of gave up on trying to get stronger.  I focused on getting better in my wheelchair.  If this is my life, then I need to be as good as possible in my wheelchair.  But, why can’t I do both?  Why can’t I be good in my chair but also still try to get out of it?  I give credit to going to the gym for helping me reach this new revelation.  The fact that I am getting stronger and getting pushed beyond where I ever thought I could go has made me more open to trying more things.  I’m still a big whiner and really have to be forced into new things, but I’m more open to it than I was a year ago.

Today was one such day.  I’m on vacation in Wyoming.  The hubs and I joined a gym for the duration of our stay.  It’s a really nice little gym, though it does make me miss my gym and my gym friends back home.  But, for a temporary gym, this place is nice.  (I love that I’ve become a person who needs to belong to a gym while on vacation.  I literally NEVER thought I would be that person.  I was always more of a “eat crap cause you’re on vacation” vacationer.  But, now I don’t want to lose all the progress I’ve made.  And I feel gross when I don’t work out these days.  Who knew?!)  I was going to jump on the recumbent bike while here, because that’s something that I’ve been wanting to try.  But, the  one here isn’t as nice as the one in my gym back home.  And that’s something I want to try when I’m in my home gym on my home turf with my home girls (and guys).  Instead, I decided to try the leg press machine.  The hubs was all for me trying and encouraged me to jump on.  So I did.  And at first, I wasn’t able to do anything.  Go figure- my legs didn’t work.  But, then I realized I could push my knees down to straighten my legs and then my muscles kicked in and controlled my going back down.  This was the kind of situation where I wish that Gun Show or one of the other trainers had been around to make sure I was doing everything correctly and to reassure me that I was actually working. (I tend to second guess everything because I don’t want to get my hopes up.)  The hubs filmed me while I did a few reps.  Then he showed me the video and I promptly deleted it.  (Note to self: you make some really awful faces when exerting yourself.  Don’t do that.)  Then the hubs filmed a second round.  Towards the end, I was actually able to kind of push myself up.  A little.  The unfortunate thing is that the video cut out at that exact moment because someone called me.  But, the video caught the awesomeness of the rest of it.  I don’t know if it was really that awesome, but it felt awesome.  And I felt like I conquered something new.  I tried for a third round, but my legs were spent and I didn’t want to push it.

So, now I am super stoked about my new signs of ability and I can’t wait to try it again and push myself more.  Though, I’m worried about when I get back to my real gym, because GS has already promised to torture push me based on the video proof what I am able to do now.  Who knows what can happen?!