Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Now, I don't want you guys to think I'm a big slacker (I am, but I don't want any of you to think it). The only reason why I'm justifying making this blog entry is because I'm staying home with my sick daughter. I wrote this on Friday, I just thought that I'd put it up now. It's a little longer, but one long blog every once in a while is permissiable.

I'm in an interdiciplinary training class where I work with all of these different professions related to working with people with disabilities (For example: social workers, psychologists, audiologists, and of course, speech-language pathologists). We also have people with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities participate so we can get there perspective. We get to learn about each others' professions and other disability related topics.

Well, on Friday we were having a disability awareness day. We all had assignments were we had simulated disabilities. We were grouped in pairs for these assignments. One person took the turn with the disabilities and the other was an observer who couldn't help. My group had three people, Amy (audiology), Eric (as he would call it: hit by a truck), and myself (speech-language pathology). Our assignments included using a manual wheel chair to go to the other side of campus to the library to check out a book, hold an umbrella while wheeling our way across campus and getting into a bathroom stall with the wheel chair.

I have a lot more respect for anyone that uses a wheel chair. They are not the easiest things to maneuver. Trying to keep the stupid thing going straight while Eric was making fun of me. He was pretty excited to watch because he had to spend many months in a chair after his head injury. He told us that watching us struggle was "Kicks and giggles" for him. Because of his hemiparesis he could only use one hand to wheel himself around. Eric said that he spent many hours in physical rehab going in circles.

Trying to get into the library was a trick. I couldn't find the handicap button in the vestibule; so, I was forced to open the door by myself, which was a bit of a trick in a wheel chair. The door was so heavy that when I opened it, the chair would be pulled to the door, making it near impossible to open. People walking by probably thought my friends were pretty big jerks, but they weren't allowed to help me. It didn't help that they were making fun of me. More kicks and giggles for Eric.

Holding an umbrella while trying to wheel yourself proved to be quite the trick for me and Amy. (Eric had already completed his tour of duty; so, he was exempt from the wheel chair.) I attempted to hold the umbrella with my knees. That didn't work well unless I hunched over, which just looked silly. I also tried to hold the umbrella with my neck, which was not working. What I ended up doing was trading off the umbrella between each hand while the opposing hand wheeled forward. This turned into a slow zigzag formation. I decided that if I used a wheel chair that I'd rather just get wet than bother. Amy figured it out better than I did. She put the umbrella handle down the back of her shirt and leaned back. She still looked silly, but it did the job.

I won't even talk about the difficult with getting into the stall with a wheel chair. Let’s just say you should go before you have to go or you'll be in trouble.

I think everybody should have this experience. You'll realize that even though places are technically accessibly they may not be practical. Sidewalks are not was smooth and even as you think. Again I have a lot more respect for people who spend there lives in their wheel chairs.


jimcalkins said...

I think that's really cool. One of my favorite things to do at the Children's Museum was the wheelchair course. You had to manuever through a small track, which including doing every day tasks at school such as getting a drink from the water fountain (that's too high), or using a full size locker, going up a ramp, etc. What an eye opener!

Bob said...

It quite the experience. You never realized that something can technically be accessible, but still be a pain in the butt.