How To Adapt Your Home/Mind To Your Disability
A couple of nights ago one of my employees pulled me aside because she said she had to talk to me about something, “un-work-related.” Employees often come to me and my fellow supervisors with personal problems especially if they relate to that person’s inability to make their scheduled shifts for the week, so I didn’t think anything of it. When we went into my office she asked me if I could make any recommendations on adapting a house for a friend who was recently paralyzed in a car accident.
Should be easy, right? I’ve got spina bifida AND my father is a carpenter. I deal with finding different ways to do things all the time that other people take for granted right? Well, as it turns out, I am the one that takes everything for granted because I have apparently become so complacent in the way I live my life that I could come up with no advice other than to make sure the sinks have room for a wheelchair to pull under. Because I was searching my own memory bank for adaptations in the usual household setup that I have personally found useful, I found myself buying some time by pontificating on the importance of making the guy feel like nothing has changed, like you still have the same relationship as you did before. I felt shallow for only being able to think of that, and I promised the girl I would look into it myself and see what I could come up with.
I have just gotten so used to finding ways to do things or just dealing with the fact of life that things are not always going to be made easy for me. Aside from the obvious, that is – access to the house itself, doorways wide enough to get through, making sure things can be reached from a wheelchair. I mean, life should not be a constant struggle, of course.
My wife often asks me why I don’t make calls to see if I can’t get certain things changed or adjusted so it is easier for me to use, or why I don’t invent things to make life easier for myself and people like me. The reason, I think is because I’d rather continue to live my life like I have been (as similarly as possible to the way everyone around me is living theirs) than try to change it. Even if certain aspects of it suck a little bit from time to time.
The truth is that I don’t see a lot of websites that are specific to this problem. Not that you can easily find by Googling the expected phrases like “adapting your home for a disabled person”. Should be a large market for this developing as we are in war time and we have thousands of injured veterans coming home, and back to their family life. People around me will probably say “Well now that you’ve seen the need for one, why don’t you start a website that has that type of information in it?”
I wanted to try to find the information my co-worker asked about because I do have great sympathy for anyone who loses their physical abilities mid-life. Especially in the case of the person my co-worker was talking about, who, by no fault of his own, was paralyzed probably for life.
I have thought about it though, and I have come to the conclusion that my advice was the best I could give. I have lived with many roommates and now with my wife, and based on the good experiences I have had with all of the people I have lived with, I can honestly say that I would rather live in a place that was not extremely accessible with people who treated me like I was able to do anything they were, than live in a Paraplegic’s Paradise with every accommodation made, with people who in one way or another made you feel like a less able person. As a disabled adult, I can attest that the people around you have a huge psychological impact on how you conduct yourself.