The Land of Disability

Last November, after my horrible fall and subsequent surgery, I spent 9 ½ weeks in a wheelchair, visiting a place that no one ever wants to go to: the land of disability.

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While I am not completely healed, I am back amoungst the able-bodied and I want to tell you a little bit about navigating in that other land.

Years ago, after my first (of three) ankle surgeries I spent six weeks on crutches, non-weight bearing on my injured ankle. It was tough on me and my family. I remember one awful day eating my lunch on the floor when I was alone as I could not get it from the kitchen to the table. After subsequent surgeries, I got a wheelchair and that made a huge different. But even in a wheelchair, life is very hard.

First of all, even places that say they are handicapped accessible often are not. I will never forget getting stuck in a restaurant bathroom that had a wheelchair accessible stall, but no automatic door opener. I couldn’t get out of the bathroom on my own, thank goodness my friend figured out something was wrong and rescued me from the ladies room. 

Without an automatic door opener, most in wheelchairs are stuck getting in or out of the bathroom. Can you imagine having to ask for help every time you need to go to the bathroom? Well that is what it is like for anyone in a wheelchair trying to access a bathroom that does not have an automatic door opener. How we define accessible matters.

Second of all, there are all sorts of great tools these days that can help those in wheelchairs, whether for a short time or for life. But knowing what they are and where to find them can be tricky.

Think about carrying things from one room to another, while in a wheelchair; it is not easy—you need your hands to move the wheels. Having a cup holder on the chair makes a big difference. And so does a Non-Slip Board & Drink Holder—the best tool I used!

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This amazing tool fit on my lap and allowed me to carry drinks, food, even my laptop around my house without spilling or dropping! AI no longer had to wait for someone else to help me to get something to eat or just take a cup of coffee from kitchen to family room. The handy dandy Grip Drink Holder (pictured above on the yellow Non-Slip Board) also helped.

Grip Gloves also helped as I wheeled myself around. As did a Safety Vest—which is great for anyone who spends time walking or biking along roads without sidewalks or adequate street lighting. I gave one to my husband who bikes to and from work.

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Fact is it is not easy to live in the land of disability. But with some helpful tools, it can be a little easier to maneuver around.

All of these handy items (pictured and described above) were provided to me by See and Be Safe, a wonderful online resource of products that assists the disabled as well as the able bodied. They design and manufacture high visibility accessories used by anyone in a wheelchair or who just wants to be seen on dark roadways. I think their visibility accessories make great gifts for the bikers in your family. Additionally, they sell grip products that help balance electronics and food on a non slip surface, making it so easy to move things around. If I sound like an infomercial, it is because I think this company provides a real service for everyone with their important products.

Bottom line is that I hope you never have to visit the land of disability, even temporarily, but the truth is that many of us might have to go there at some point, even if just for a short while. And if you do, knowing what helpful items exist will make a difference.

Full disclosure: I was not paid for writing this piece, but I was given these items to use when I was in my wheelchair. My husband and I are still using the Non-Slip Board and the Safety Vest. All opinions on the products are mine and mine alone.



As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!

11 thoughts on “The Land of Disability

  1. Dawn Quyle Landau

    You feel so vulnerable when you are left navigating these challenges. I can only imagine how hard that is for folks who live with permanent disabilities! There are some wonderful ideas and suggestions here, Heidi; thanks for sharing .

    Reply
    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      Thank you Dawn for reading and commenting. You are right, it does feel vulnerable to ave to ask for help for simple things. And it takes away one’s dignity. I cant imagine what it is like to face a lifetime of it, but we do what we have to do. It would be great if the rest of the world woke up and saw that accessible should mean full accessibility.

      Reply
  2. Lorrie

    We who are able-bodied take so much for granted–it can all change in a moment. Thanks for pointing the way to resources if and when it does!

    Reply
    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      It is so easy not to pay attention until we (or a loved one) needs it. And you are right it can change in a minute. I hope that you and your family never have to worry about this, but if you do hopefully these resources will help.

      Reply
  3. Jan Brown

    A little over two years ago I fell and broke my ankle in not one, but two, different places. I was also in a non-weight bearing cast. Couldn’t do crutches. Couldn’t go out on my own because my building is not handicap accessible. I was dependent on my friends to come take me out and it was no easy task. However one day my good friend drove me over to The Ritz in Half Moon Bay. Without a word the valet had my wheelchair set up and held it for me to get in to. I didn’t even need to instruct him how to set up the wheelchair! When we were ready to leave, it was the same thing…they folded up the wheelchair and loaded it into our car. I’m walking much better now, sans wheelchair, but I have never forgotten my experience at the Ritz. They know how to train their staff!

    Reply
    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      What a great story. It can make all the difference when people around us know how to help. Last January, when I was still in my chair, we flew from northern CA to Syracuse to see our daughter in an opera at her university. The airlines were pretty good–and I later found out that part of the great treatment I received was because I was traveling with my own wheelchair. But the hotels we used were only so-so. We did stay in two different hotels and both times had their accessible rooms, but one was at the end of a long carpeted hallway that gave me a workout every time to get to and from. If my chair was motorized it would have been a lot easy, but I didn’t need all of that. Your story makes me want to go visit the Ritz just to support them!

      Reply
  4. frank spigel

    Heidi,
    I remember a long time ago, Miss Wheelchair America visited the Library of Congress.
    and one of the the things she brought up was How inaccessible Bathrooms were for the Library of Congress,
    after her visit the library Spent a lot of money improving bathrooms to make them more handicapped accessible.
    How handicapped accessible, they are today is a very good question.
    I know Landmark-Bethesda has handicapped accessible seats, which I question, because they are fine for Medical minor handicaps, but not major handicaps.
    Your column was fascinating, I only wish my mom was alive to read it.
    Love,
    Frank

    Reply
  5. Narita

    Heidi,
    Great post. I read it a bit ago but didn’t comment on it. I appreciate it, I’m saving the info because I’m a caregiver and it will be helpful when my auntie needs a chair :)
    I hope you’re doing well now and have been wondering how your new place is.
    We’re going to be at Madonna’s next Saturday, the 18th. Come join us for stitching if you can. 11-4
    Narita

    Reply
    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      Thanks for the feedback and comment. I suggest you book mark the website: See and Be Seen for your aunt.

      We are settling in just great and we love our new place!!! Still not done with all the work, but close.

      Would love to join you one of these days for stitching at Madonna’s but cant on July 18th. Please let me know when you will be there again in the future and I will join you!

      Reply

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