Wednesday, June 8, 2011

University of Sussex-Ladies

I had to snap a couple of pictures of this restroom (toilet) at the University of Sussex in Brighton, England. Outside of a hospital, this is the BEST restroom I've ever seen in a public space.
Note the non slip surface in a generously sized room. The grab bars on the right go up to allow turning room for a wheelchair. The seat is lower and has a cushioned back support.
Here, one can see the use of a push lever faucet. After an allotted time, the water turns itself off. The soap and drier are located at a reachable height and next to each other. No wet, slippery hands because the drier or paper towel dispenser is across the room. This also allows for cleaner floors because no one has dripped all over the floor on the way to drying their hands.
Also, note the TP is easily dispersed sheets. Those who suffer from arthritis, MD or other issues with their hands appreciate not fighting with the eternal roll or shuffling the impossible door across to get access to the new roll of TP. (I swear I've heard that new roll laughing at me as I struggle to get that ridiculous sliding door across!)
If you know an architect or anyone in charge of building remodeling or compliance, PLEASE take the opportunity to share this information with them. This campus was built in the '60s and they were forward thinking in creating this space. Imagine what we could do for people now!!
PS The detail of providing a mirror at a lowered height on the back of the door really sealed the deal. Being disabled doesn't mean we don't want to check our hair and make up too. Or teeth for that embarrassing bit of spinach salad. Thank you U of Sussex and the IDS!!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Flights from Kansas City to Heathrow, London

1:40 on Sunday was a lovely day in Kansas City, the rain had stopped for more than a day, it was yet to become the humid soup that is the typical midwest summer and I was looking forward to my trip to the UK and Belgium. Que: the"encroahers" and crying babies in conjunction with my body's decision to go on total shut down.
The crying babies were on the flight from KC to Detroit. I do not have a problem with crying babies. They are being honest. Perhaps they are in pain or grumpy at the intrusion of traveling, perhaps they are hungry or don't like the man sitting next to them. My problem with crying children is the people who have a problem with crying children. It took everything I had to hold my tongue to the couple seated behind me loudly complaining about the crying. If ever there was a time for made-up statistics, this was it. Ie:" Did you know that 97% of those who complain loudly about crying babies were in fact, themselves, crying babies?" or," It has been proven that babies sense intolerance and impatience in adults and are known to respond by crying?" However, being a "grown up" I refrained from saying anything.
Next, were the "encroachers". Yes, that is a made-up word. (Poetic license. Gimpy guide posts are peppered with it) These are the people who do not care about leaving their "side" of the seat. To echo (steal) from Jeff Foxworthy:
You may be an encroacher if:
1. You read a newspaper and drape the top part onto the head of the person seated front of you. (I watched a poor woman continue to shrink down in her seat as this particular encroacher was also the cry baby complainer)
2. You believe the whole arm rest is yours including the area on the opposite side of it. Please use the seat pocket to stash your items. Not the area between your neighbors seat and the armrest.
3. You believe it is perfectly acceptable to just sit there with your arms over the back of the seat in front of you. Elbows: bend them.
4. When the flight attendant hands out snacks, you Bogart them all by taking them and pretending you will hand them over and then stuffing them in your carry on. Ask and ye shall receive more pretzels from flight staff.
5. You believe the aisle is your personal foot rest. Not just to stretch but to perch there throughout the flight. If it aches, stretch, then tuck. In the middle of the night, we gimpy folks are at max, while on trips to the toilet, to try to reach the overhead bins for stability and not touch the seat backs to wake people up. Do NOT complain if I trip over your foot.

Back to stats. Airline: Delta all the way to Heathrow. Much better than United (who isn't) and also better than American. Not as good as Virgin. 3 out of 5 crutches on the gimpyguide scale

Monday, May 2, 2011

What is Gimpy Guide anyway??

On May 19, 2006, I sustained a knee injury that required surgery. I've never recovered. My mild Muscular Dystrophy impaired the healing process. I have enough nerve damage, muscle wasting and bone loss that I'm on crutches or a walker full time and a wheel chair for long trips or on bad days. It became a battle to stay ahead of the MD as it consumed more and more of my mobility and fine motor abilities. I decided to see what was out there for mildly disabled people.

I found nothing. The travel guides were for wheelchair users or older "slow walkers". The wheelchair guides had too much information on some issues and not enough on others. The "slow walker" guides went to museums and knitted afghans. Yawn!
Where were the guidebooks for the people who had a broken leg? If I wanted to go see a rock concert at my local arena, what arrangements did I need to make for someone using a walker after hip surgery? If I used a wheelchair at the art fair downtown, were there bathrooms I could get to if I could go up a few steps? Could I navigate the beach employing the hot bartenders if I had a friend help me and went during off peak hours with crutches? My friend is recovering from a stroke and we need to know where to go for dinner. I've run out of insurance for physical therapy, can I use a personal trainer instead? What are some of the alternative therapy options?

The concept of Gimpy Guide was born.
It is for anyone who has mobility issues for whatever reason. Temporarily or permanently.

I chose the term "gimpy" because:
1. It's used quite often in Australia to describe everything from a the limp resulting from a sprained ankle to someone using crutches or a walker.
2. I liked the idea of being exactly what I meant. Not DISabled or Handicap-able. Why take a word and undo it to describe what my mobility issues were?
3. Gimp is a braid or decorative trim frequently used to apply the finishing touch to a garment. It's a bit like high dollar rick-rack. Those curtains or 80's tapestry blazer are more complete with it. (I actually still think about that blazer.)
4. Let's face it, Gimpy Guide is catchier than "Kind of Disabled Diary" or "A Little Bit Handicapped or is it Handicap-able How To" or "It's Just A Broken Leg and I'll Be Healed in 3 Months But, I'm a Bit Lost in The Meantime Blog".

And, do check back in. Up next; a two part investigation into pain and how it relates to depression, stress and healing.

Monday, April 11, 2011

3 ways to "do something" helpful

One of the goals for Gimpy Guide has been to support and educate. As I speak with new patients or those who have had mobility issues for a while, one thing keeps coming up....friends and family aren't sure what they can do to help. The following are 3 ideas that come up frequently.

1. Offer to help around the house

"What day would be good this week for me to come by and do a load of laundry, sweep or vacuum the floor, pick up the dry cleaning, go to the post office, change a light bulb, weed the garden, mow the lawn, take out the garbage....?" Trust us, we would absolutely love someone to dust that vent or ceiling fan (we never noticed they were so dusty until we couldn't do anything about it).
2. Schedule a time each day or week to give us a call and just check in
Sometimes, just knowing that there is a scheduled call can give someone the strength to push a little harder at physical therapy that morning or postpone that meltdown from frustration. We may feel more comfortable sharing if we are reached out to with those calls than placing the call ourselves. Sometimes, we may not answer but, we know you remembered to call.
3. Offer to take us somewhere
Having mobility issues is not only frustrating but, can be very scary. Have you ever realized how slippery the floors can be at a supermarket? Is it really necessary to spritz the fruit and surrounding floor several times a day? The lovely stadium seating at the movie theater is daunting with crutches or a walker. And, if your gimpy person indulges in the bucket of popcorn and accompanying vat of soda, they may need assistance navigating those same steps in the dark. Perhaps more than once.

Repeat as needed depending on how long your friend or family member is gimpy. Please remember; even those of us who have been gimpy for a long time or, expect to stay that way still need a bit of help. No matter the system in place, or how brave the face, there are still moments of frustration over tasks, fear that we've gotten in over our heads and worry to go places on our own.
And, thank you.

Monday, February 7, 2011

MCI airport in Kansas City

Kansas City's MCI airport is composed of 3 U or C shaped terminals. The floors are some designed in a dizzyingly galactic design. They are slippery. On the up side, most everything is located on one floor with access to baggage and curbside parking mere steps from the departure gate. The gates are not well marked at the curbside. Drop off points labeled as ticketing gates may be nowhere near the actual gate. Be prepared to stroll along looking at the array of stars sliding past your feet as you progress through the "C" to your final gate point. As of January, there were no scanners in view.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chicago Mart/Holiday Inn

Claustrophobic revolving doors greet guests of the Chicago Mart. Please do take a moment to punch the handicapped button to slow them down. They are small enough that the shuffling required with crutches or walker wouldn't provide you enough time to clear the threshold.
Once inside, visitors are greeted with a huge expanse of slippery, white floor. While there are no mats to provide traction, there are plenty of useless signs warning that the floors are slippery when wet. Between visitors with snow on their feet and the Mart's desire to keep the white floors looking nice, the floors were ALWAYS wet and slippery during my stay. The upside was an amazing doorman who escorted me through the special employees door on my departure saving me from the turn style shuffle of my arrival.
The Holiday Inn lobby is located a short elevator ride up from the Mart's entrance. The staff were friendly and accommodating. We were gifted a switch to a beautiful corner room with a smile. The views of downtown Chicago and the river were amazing. This is now one of my favorite places to stay. The bathroom is a bit too small for a wheelchair and a large walker may not fit through the door way, crutches and a folding walker fit through with no problems. Do make an inquiry if you are traveling alone as there are brutal, narrow stairs to ascend with your bags from the parking area.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Tenacity in Queensland

The people of Australia and Queensland in particular are amazing. I am taking a brief detour from the chronological order of my travels to comment on what I've seen.
Currently, I am in Adelaide, South Australia. No where near the flooding. However, the news reports are on constantly. So, for anyone outside Aussie, I'd like to share a bit of the reports coming in.

"Please save my brother first" from a 4 year old who ended up getting swept away. "Mostly, I'm worried about my little sister" from a 7 year old. "Two men I didn't know saw us moving things out of the house and just walked in and helped us load the rest of the trailer. Then, the received a text of another family needing help and went to help them too". As repeated by a news reporter in Brisbane standing in ankle deep water with a half blackened cityscape behind her.

There have been NO reports of looting. No whining that insurance probably won't cover the damage. Homes across the state have opened up to strangers to provide clothing and shelter. Without expecting payment of any kind other than gratitude.
I am so amazed at the amount of money that has been raised for the victims from around the world.

I am inspired by the way the Aussies are looking out for others, doing the hard work to make a difference and not complaining. The news isn't badgering those who have lost loved ones, allowing them to grieve and not be sensationalized.

My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones. May peace be with you.

To the rest of Queensland and Australia:
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!.........Oi! Oi!Oi!
Good on Ya!