Friday, September 26, 2014

New Gloves

For  the first time since high school, I've got new wheelchair gloves!  (Really, biking gloves, but they serve the same purpose.)  I'd seen a post about the good quality of these gloves in particular, and I love how padded the palms are.  Fellow manual chair users who use biking gloves for a bit of protection - seriously check these out.  Affordable, good quality and true to size.  Find them here.

Advice: Carrying Money While Shopping

Hello, just me, with yet another question. :) Since I need my hands free to push my chair or walker, what's a safe way to carry my money in public, other than a fanny pack or my bra (I hated touching boob or sock money as a cashier). I don't want to put any valuables on the back of my chair either. I've been just asking whoever I'm shopping with to hold my wallet, but I might go out alone sometime. Thanks in advance for any advice!

Great question!  I can only share what's worked for me and that's this purse.  It's small, lightweight and has a long, adjustable strap.  I've made the strap as short as possible, and when I go out in my chair, I wear this around my neck and one shoulder, so it's very close to my body.  (If you want an extra layer of security, you can always buckle it in with you.)  The biggest part of the purse snaps closed, which is where I keep my larger items (parking sticker), I keep the most important stuff in the zipped pocket and loose change in the very front tiny pocket.  (For reference, I believe this one was found at Kohl's.)

As a general note, if you're out alone, I would recommend taking your chair whenever possible if you need to handle money, because that can leave your hands free in a way a walker (or crutches) won't.

Hope this helps!  (And I always love questions!)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Advice: Wheelchair Maintenance

Hey, I have a question that just occurred to me today: Is there anything I need to know about maintaining my wheelchair? This is still pretty new to me. I actually just got my first chair that isn't used. (In addition to moving into my own accessible apartment last week - yay!) I haven't had any problems so far, but I always had trouble maintaining cars in the past and want to be prepared. Thanks! :D

Oh my gosh, hooray!  I'm so excited for you!  (I live in accessible housing, too, and it's so, so liberating to be able to go everywhere I need to, without a struggle.)  Enjoy!

This is actually something I'm really bad at, haha!  (Though, I'm in the process of getting a new chair myself, and one of the people I spoke to connected with the process commented that I "took such good care of my wheelchair," so I guess I may not be as bad as I think?)

Off the top of my head, though:

- Tires that are gel-filled, not air-filled are the best, because they don't require maintenance.

- Keep a screwdriver at the ready.  If something is loose, tighten it, ASAP.

- Be as aware as possible.  If you hear something fall off your chair (like a screw) try to find it.  If you can't put it back where it goes, ask someone else who can.

- WD-40 for squeaky wheels.

- If your new chair requires any degree of disassembly for storage (in the car) don't be afraid to insist to whomever you're traveling with that things get reassembled the right way.  That way, you won't risk a wheel falling off in the middle of a store.  (That happened to me.  Zero fun.)

- Keep track of when insurance will allow you to get another chair.  (Mine covers a new one every five years, but I tend to keep my chairs closer to ten years.)  Always good to have a chair that's secure and in good working order.

- A good cleaning (wipe down with a cloth) is not bad every once in a while (though this is a real struggle for me.  But if you ever get the opportunity to take up a loved one or family member on a favor, ask them if they wouldn't mind wiping it down for you.)

- Your chair is awesome.  It's a gift.  It's your freedom.  Take care of it.  Let people around you know how to treat it (kids especially..)

NOTE (Jan 2015):  Ever since I've gotten my new chair in December, I've been cleaning it once a week.  Clorox wipes (or something similar) on the wheels, frame and foot rest, Lysol on the handles, and I Fabeeze the seat cushion nightly.  I've also noticed that if you can keep up with vacuuming/Swiffering/sweeping (once a week is what we do) it really cuts down on the hair your wheels may pick up.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Kanye West Stops Concert Until He Gets Proof That Disabled Man Uses a Wheelchair

I've been seeing this moment circulated around a lot of social media recently, under a variety of headlines.  Some people believe it is being blown out of proportion because "Kanye didn't force the man in a wheelchair to stand up and dance," as some headlines might lead readers to believe.

However, as a disabled person, that's not what I take issue with.  I doubt there is anyone with a physical disability who hasn't been in that awkward situation where we're in a large audience and the audience is asked to stand up.  It's just one of those things we learn to deal with.  We realize that we can't and wait through the National Anthem, with our hand over our heart, hoping Lady Liberty will understand we mean no disrespect.  Maybe we sit a bit straighter, if possible, trying to convey that we respect the moment, the country, the speaker, too.

That is not the issue.

The issue is that Kanye West took it a step too far in sending a body guard out to the audience to prove that the man who didn't stand up was in fact in a wheelchair, after complaining about how long he had to wait to continue his set.

How completely mortifying.

No one should have to prove the legitimacy of their disability, especially at a public event they paid to attend.  It's hard enough for us to get to public events like concerts in the first place.  (Not saying this for sympathy but because of simple logistics.)  We have to be sure there is accessible seating available, find a vehicle big enough to carry our wheelchair (if we can't drive.)  And we have to hope that when we get to the venue, it actually is as accessible as it says it is.  Are its elevators big enough?  How about its restrooms?  Does its accessible seating have room for you and a friend or two to sit or do you all have to split up, and still try to enjoy the night?

The sad thing is, when I heard about this, I wasn't shocked.  I wasn't surprised.  Because things like this happen far too often.  This isn't about singling out Kanye West, it's about able-bodied people recognizing that they don't have the right to demand to authenticate our circumstances and the state of our bodies before their public event can continue.

How many people at that concert used crutches or a cane?  Or no mobility aid at all but for whom standing for an entire song would be utterly exhausting?  See where it gets grey?  Not all disabilities are visible.

So, next time, I hope Kanye West will simply invite his audience to stand, and leave it at that.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Question: What Makes a Person Disabled?

What makes a person disabled?

A person is disabled if they are limited by a physical or mental condition.  This can include, but is not limited to:

- a physical disability (like Cerebral Palsy)
- a sensory disability (like sensory processing disorder)
- a mental health disorder (like PTSD)
- an intellectual disability (like Down Syndrome)
- an invisible disability (like diabetes)

A person can be born with a disability (like CP or Down Syndrome) and/or they can acquire one later in life (as with a traumatic brain injury.)  It's possible to have more than one type of disability.  Many people with disabilities need accommodations such as crutches, a wheelchair, braille, or insulin.  Many people have disabilities that cannot be immediately detected.  This does not mean they are not disabled.  Many people who are disabled have experienced discrimination (called ableism when it concerns disabled people.)  Many people who are disabled require medical intervention (surgery, therapy, or medication.)

There is no one person who represents a particular disability.  We are as varied as the able population in our experiences and points of view.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Issue of Patronizing

(My sis and me on the first day of second grade)

The issue of being patronized to as a disabled person is serious and real.  I recently saw a post on Facebook where a fellow disabled woman remarked that she was sick of people calling her beautiful.  One response was apologetic, a few asked what she would rather they say, but most made sarcastic remarks, one insisted on continuing to refer to her as beautiful and one called her ungrateful.

It brought back my own experiences with similar remarks.  In second grade, I was called "so cute" (in the way that puppies or babies are) by a fellow seven-year-old classmate.  Two years later, my teacher came up with a particularly off-putting nickname for me: Princess.  Neither acknowledged my requests to not be referred to in those terms, or my discomfort at them.

So, what do we, as disabled people learn, when able people in our lives disregard our requests or our discomfort?  We learn that you, the able person and your intentions, mean more than our feelings.  I hear it all the time, and I saw it in regard to the Facebook conversation: "But I mean well!"

Maybe you genuinely believe that.

But before you defend your actions, think of this.  If a fellow able person told you they were not comfortable with language you used about them, chances are, you would listen.  Because you would receive them as whole people, who are capable of making decisions about what we want and don't want.  

If you "mean well" but refuse to listen to us and honor our requests about the language you use to refer to us?  You don't actually mean well.  You mean to keep us small.  You mean to look at us through a narrow lens.  You mean to choose to dehumanize us rather than choosing to respect us as human beings with voices and opinions.

Whether a disabled child or a disabled adult, we are all worthy of that.