We’ve Got to E-lim-in-ate the Obstacles

Are the folks who came up with the blueprints for so-called “accessible” spaces now designing packaging for containers of fast-acting sugar used to treat hypoglycemia?


A few mornings ago, I had need of such a quick hit and decided to try out a bottle of glucose drink. (That’s what it’s called. Try Wal-Mart. Surprisingly, it doesn’t suck.) I’d bought a bottle, but hadn’t gotten around to using it yet. I almost didn’t that morning.

First of all, I couldn’t unscrew the lid. My hands aren’t all that strong, but they’re not that weak, either. Turns out there was this plastic outer wrap all over the bottle, including over the lid. When I finally figured that out and managed to get the plastic off of the lid, it unscrewed quite easily.

That’s when I found that the opening to the bottle had one of those plastic and foil kind of covers with the half-circle you lift up and use to remove the barrier to get to the drink itself.

Great. Just when you have the brainpower of a slug and the manual dexterity of a rock, you’re forced to work for your sugar fix.

Why is that, I wondered…but didn’t come up with any answers. Oh, sure, some idiot back in the 1980s decided to put poison in a pain killer, which led the industry to come up with packaging to thwart the no-goodniks and their ilk. But can’t they come up with something we can actually open without first having to get an advanced degree in packaging technology?

I’ll have to ponder that in much the same way as I often mull over why accessible bathroom stalls are always at the far end of the row. Or why public bathrooms without a door, but with a short hallway and a couple of turns between the public area of the building and the bathroom are too narrow for a scooter — or a large wheelchair — to maneuver. Even in hospitals. Or why bathroom doors can’t swing in and out so you can actually get…well, in and out.

There’s a restaurant in town that has an accessible stall in the ladies’ room — but you can’t get into the bathroom. On the other hand, you can enter the ladies’ room in the building where my grandson’s oral surgeon’s office is located — but you can’t get back out. (I have to have my husband wait outside the door to let me out when I’m finished. Hopefully, other women who have to “go” don’t think he’s a masher.)

What if, instead of coming in tiny little plastic bottles, glucose drinks came in tiny little aluminum cans with eensy-weensy bottle openers? How about containers with built-in glucose meters? The lower your blood glucose gets, the easier it is to remove the cap. Somewhere in the 50s, it opens itself. Any lower, and it also pours itself into your mouth.

At the other end of the spectrum — this is when you’re hyperglycemic and really need a bathroom…often — I haven’t a clue. There is no way an accessible stall will automagically appear in the first space instead of the last. The best you could hope for is an accessible stall that a scooter or wheelchair will actually fit inside of. That is, if you can get into the bathroom in the first place.

You’d be surprised how many places have an “accessible” stall with a wide door…and that’s it. Oh, it has the requisite bar inside to hold onto, but no room to park inside. So you park your mobility vehicle of choice outside and hobble in, hanging onto the door, the tops of the dividers, toilet paper dispensers and anything else that comes in handy. No, no. Not the toilet tissue dispenser: It’s usually under the bar, where you have to somehow hang upside-down to get any tissue out.

Unopenable containers with contents to be used in an emergency. Inaccessible accessible spaces. Anybody got a solution? No matter how wild? If anybody comes up with something really viable…I get a finder’s fee.

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  • Deborah

    That was hilarious, I know it’s a serious subject but having a sense of humor too is vital. Thanks for making me laugh today.

  • David Bryce

    I’m a male and I can identify with everything you said in your great article. Add to that list, electric hand dryers that rarely do the job – unless you find one of that breed that leave you with third degree burns. Maybe you don’t have those in America.

    As for a solution, apart from getting rid of all uni-trained architects and using an older builder I can’t think of anything that would be politically correct. I find it embarrassing to ask the girl behind the counter to open the bottle of drink.

  • Katherine M

    I agree; inaccessible design both architectural & product design make me fume, especially inaccessible plastic wraps! Where are the universal design industrial designers, architects & other design specialists? As the population ages, I bet the vendors who are going to prosper are the folks who sell adaptive equipment–for everything from silverware to pens to…. or meters, meter supplies……

  • joan

    Jan – for a quick fix when hypoglycemia hits us is SUGAR CUBES. These little darlings were used back in the “dark ages” of diabetes AND still work well and quick!! They are easy to carry as we usually need only 3 to 5 cubes at one time. They dissolve quickly AND they do not have the harmful ingredients that some commercial products have! They also satisfy the “sweet tooth” we often have a graving for when dealing with hypoglycemia.

    Each sugar cube is 5 grams of carbs and 3 of them will lift most of us up to clear thinking levels very quickly so we can care for ourselves.

    On accessible toilets! Well, you should live out West. We have mostly great space for wheel chairs or scooters in public areas; at least where I travel up and down the West coast and inland 200 miles or so. There are also hand bars to hold on to, and toilet seat covers available at a low level including a sink (only some locations have low sinks).

    My suggestion for accessibility is contact your state government and tell them to “get with it”. In this financial down period there may be a wait for $$ to show up again. But THEY need to know regardless.

  • Kathy Mack

    Or why when you need to have an a parking place for the disabled it is always the farthest parking place from the entrance of the building and not only that it is right on one of those speed bumps so you have to straddle the bump to park your car. Then to top it off, there are only one set of diagonal stripes on one side of the parking space so if you have a van with a lift you hope the stripes are on the same side as your lift so you can get out of your vehicle in the first place. Oh and then once you get out, you have to take the longest route possible to enter the building becuase the accessible route is longer than a trip around the world, when people without disabilities only walk 2 feet and enter the building but you have to travel 1,000 feet to do the same thing.
    And being in the store is another adventure. People see you coming with your things to get in line to pay and they purposely run ahead of you and block you so you can’t get into line. Or you want to go down an aisle and this person sees you and blocks your access (deliberately) and then after 10 minutes looks at you and says, “Oh did you want through?” and when you reply “yes” they take their cart and turn it sideways blocking your access even more. I want to say, “Am I invisible?” One time I was going down the aisle of a grocery store and this lady was walking backwards down the aisle. (She wanted to see where she had been.) I yelled and yelled at her and she plain ignored me. She did pay attention however when she fell into the basket of the cart I was using. I asked her if she heard me and she said yes, but she thought I was yelling at someone else. (There was nobody else in the aisle.) You are right about tne inaccessible, accessible places and the inaccessible, accessible glucose bottles.

  • Arlene Walker

    What really erks me is how often the disabled stall is out of order or someone who DOES NOT NEED IT is using it. I only use a cane, for now, but I still need to use that stall in most rest rooms because the other stalls are soooo narrow. I don’t mind a mother with a couple kids using that stall because I do know it is easier to take a couple kids in one stall than two in this day and age with all the weirdo’s around.

    I also hate going in KMart. Not only do they NOT have enough scooters 99% of the time. But the scooters are, normally, not even working or not fully charged. Then if, low and behold, you can get a scooter their isles are sooo narrow you can’t get through them with a crow-bar. Half the time you can’t even get one of their carts down their isles so how can you get a scooter down that isle?

  • jim snell

    man – ahmen to those comments. The three degree morans that come up with this crap is mind numbing.

    I have glucose test strips with same issue. With little bottles and strips so smooth they molecularly stick to each other.

    I am 63, finger prints warn smooth and some disability from stroke. In rush invariably spill the lot all over floor, desk, table and due to issues always get 2 to 3 every time I try to extract one.

    I want to know who is dumbell who approved super smooth surfaces.

    Aka meat slice pacages with arrow that says open this end. They always seem glued together or molecularly sticking together. Getting bags at super market is also a riot trying to open end – that is if you can find a bag.

    Vons Safeway seem to think they are running a display art gallery in grocery section and after you search all over store you find a bag. Now big test is can you open it. The super thinness means molecular stick together is maximum.

    Bang on target Jan. Thankyou.