The Web Site SAID It Was Accessible!

The trip to Tennessee I was so looking forward to taking? It was so much “fun,” we came home a day early. My husband wanted to come home the day after we arrived, but the girls — our granddaughter and a friend — wanted to go to a couple of places.

Let’s just say that some people have a warped idea of what constitutes “accessible.”

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When I first talked to the owner of the cabin we rented, it became clear that the place wasn’t totally accessible. There were no grab bars in any of the bathrooms, but that wasn’t a problem: I haven’t had grab bars in my own bathroom until this week. What I’ve been doing is putting a height-adjustable commode with arms over the toilet. So we loaded that into the back of the van and took it along.

What I didn’t count on was an inability to get into a bathroom in the first place. The bathroom doorways are about 21 inches wide and I couldn’t walk (er, hobble) in because my leg was too swollen to fit into my prosthesis. One bathroom did have a doorway that would (barely) accommodate my scooter. However, once inside, there was no maneuverability and the toilet was in an alcove that was too narrow for my commode anyway.

So I couldn’t use any of the toilets — in a cabin with three full baths and two half baths. Luckily, my husband took the commode bucket along, too. So I used that. And he had to clean it out. I felt bad about that. He felt bad I had to use it.

Showers? There was one the owner said was accessible. Nope. Not with that high lip and a fixed showerhead, it wasn’t. Well, the fixed showerhead could have been overcome, but it was a moot point since I couldn’t get into the shower. So I couldn’t shower, even though room in the van was taken up by a portable shower seat because I knew there were no grab bars in the shower, either.

I could have soaked in the Jacuzzi on the back porch. If only it hadn’t been located in an area that was four steps down from the porch. At least the girls got to enjoy it.

And, oh, those highly polished wood floors. Beautiful! I sat on a sofa. Once. When I went to get up, I leaned forward to hop onto the scooter and the sofa slid back. I landed on the floor. So I didn’t try that again. Nor did I try sitting in a chair at the dining room table. I don’t like having my tush hit the floor. Scooters are made for transportation; not for lounging around in. Ouch!

I couldn’t go down to the lake. Steps. I couldn’t go onto the front porch. Steps. But the most frustrating step situation was the step up into the yard. I’d had both a conversation and an e-mail exchange with the owner about steps. I made darned sure there was a step-free entrance to the cabin. But who would have thought about asking if there was a step between the parking area and the yard? There was a wonderful little pathway made of stepping stones that were sunk into the ground so they were even with the lawn. All except for the very first one, which had not been buried. It was a step. And there were flower beds on either side of it.

(I messed up a couple of plants bypassing the step. I got stuck in the loose soil a couple of times, but I eventually made it into the yard. She’d better not complain about the darned flowers.)

“But I never said it was wheelchair accessible,” she said. Frankly, I don’t recall if she said that or not, but I do know the Web site says it is.

Also, I did tell her — over the phone and via e-mail — that I only have one leg, use a mobility scooter, and cannot handle steps at all at this point. Especially if I can’t get my prosthesis on. It never even occurred to me to ask if there was a rock in the way going to the cabin: one that had been deliberately placed there. It never occurred to me to ask about the width of the bathroom doors. (My husband measured them. He recalls they were about 21 inches wide. I believe my scooter is 24 inches wide. Whatever. The important point was that it wouldn’t go through the bathroom doors.) I believed all I had to worry about were grab bars in at least one bathroom, which I (supposedly) solved by bringing some equipment from home.

The obstacles overrode the comfortable bed and the view of the mountains and lake from the back porch. I sat one morning and watched a red ball appear from behind the mountains and float up into the sky, turning lighter as it rose and blazing a sparkling path across the lake. That image will be emblazoned into my brain for years to come.

Wheelchair (or scooter) accessible means more than just having a ramp that goes to the back porch and through one doorway that doesn’t have a sill that’s too high. Wheelchair accessible means you can enter all of the rooms — and especially the bathrooms. It means you can take advantage of all of the amenities. It means having the necessary accessories — such as grab bars — to enable somebody who is mobility impaired to use a toilet and a shower.

On the way home, I encountered another problem. On a pit/gasoline stop, I had to wait for an insufferably long time for some idiot to move his car from in front of the curb cut in front of the convenience store. And I really had to “go!” When we’re on the road, I try to last as long as I can because somebody has to get my scooter in and out of whatever vehicle we’re in.

So I sat. And sat. And sat…just feet from the bathroom. When the man finally came out, I told him I’d really give him a piece of my mind if not for the handicapped license plate. “But you, of all people, should know better!” I told him. Heck, he was walking. When I had two legs, but my arthritis was so bad I couldn’t step up and down from curbs all that well, I parked close to the curb and used the hood of my vehicle to help get me up and down. I never dreamed of blocking a curb cut.

And who knows if the handicapped plate was for him or for somebody else in his family? I do know at least one person whose husband is handicapped, but she is not. Nevertheless, she parks in a handicapped space even when her husband is not with her.

Where are some people’s manners? Or brains?

  • jim snell

    Good for Jan. Same ole bullcrap.

    Unless you have faced disabilities, you have no clue about impact and “accessable resources”.

    Normal folks simply have no clue what those with serious disbilities face after stroke, limb amputation etc.

    Great work informing all the slugs out there.

    Keep it up please.

  • Cathy A.

    Jan, I almost always agree with you, but this time I have a problem with the poor guy who didn’t look handicapped. After I had my heart attack, I didn’t look handicapped either, but I couldn’t walk more than 20 feet without great difficulty. Nevertheless, I didn’t get a sticker for my car, I just muddled through because I was too proud. Since that time I have looked at others in a different way. Perhaps they were smarter than I was and took the orders of their doctors. Not all disabilities are visible. I looked well, but was a long way from it. When asked if I wanted help out with my groceries, I did say yes because I had a case of water I wouldn’t have been able to get out of the cart. I was looked at as if I was wasting the time of the employees until I explained my circumstances – something I really didn’t want to do.

    We never know how the other guy is feeling, so as for me, I plan to give him or her the benefit of the doubt.

    Better luck next time with finding a good place to go for a relaxing vacation, Jan. Wishing you all the best.

  • Lois La Rose

    Oh, Jan, do I know where you are coming from. I’ve BTDT!!!! I just moved into a HUD apartment listed as “handicapped accessible.” Well, not so to say in the strictest sense of the term. Doors just barely wide enough to get through without scraping your knuckles; a toilet so low that a little person would find it a bit too low; carpets that just don’t get along with power chair wheels; lots of cabinets … wasted space because most of them were too high or too low; refrigerator that just isn’t fit for a chair. Do I need to go on?

    I’ve often battled royally with merchants of so-called accessible bathrooms. Doors are at sharp angles that make it difficult for anyone carrying anything or in a scooter; toilet paper dispensers so low you have to be an orangutan to reach the paper without cutting yourself severely; sinks too high or deep to reach them without practically giving yourself a bath! And best of all …. that same heavy door you struggled pushing open is now one you have to grow those orangutan arms to reach out and exit safely. My pet peeve is the height of the tissue dispensers. The ADA law states that the dispensers have to be mounted a minimum (I repeat) a minimum of 18″ from the floor. Why oh why do the architects take it in the literal sense? Can’t they see that the average adult is not that short or that even kids would have trouble reaching it without falling off the throne? What stops them from mounting them at a reasonable height? Ssssssiiiiiigggggghhhhhh!

    Lois