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.”


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[1] 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?

  1. arthritis:

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Jan Chait: Jan Chait was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in January 1986. Since then, she has run the gamut of treatments, beginning with diet and exercise. She now uses an insulin pump to help treat her diabetes. (Jan Chait is not a medical professional.)

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