Sunday, February 28, 2016

Stroke Survival Sunday: Making the Inacessible Accessible

As a physically disabled person, safe accessibility is of paramount importance. Having clear, level walkways makes sense right? Having accessibility in the home you lived in before your stroke is another issue entirely. Not everyone can afford to buy a more accessible house. Most of us just have to make do.

I'll use my current home, the house I'm moving to and our future home as examples.

My current home- when I came home from the rehab hospital, I had a few aids that I didn't have before like a portable toilet, bath chair, a hemi walker, and a wheelchair. That's just some very basic equipment. My house was built in 1959. It was only partially accessible before we bought it. I was technically disabled by my spine injury and bionic joints prior to its purchase. I knew my limitations like a flight of steps. Yes, I could climb stairs, but at times it was a scary proposition. The idea of climbing them several times a day made it a hardship issue. So a single story house was searched for and found. The house is not without steps though. There are two small steps and a door jamb to get into the front door. There was also a six-inch step down into the back room we slated as my office. This wasn't a deal breaker at the time. Of course, only the front and back doors were 36" wide.

Jump ahead almost seventeen years. My husband's medical condition worsens to where he cannot walk and I have a stroke. Those little steps posed a problem and ramps had to be built. My lower kitchen cabinets become impossible to see and reach inside. The top shelves in my upper cabinets also become inaccessible because I have to step up on a stool to reach them. Sliding and drop down baskets had to be installed to make them usable and handicapped friendly. In fact, my house was going through an expansion/renovation at the time of my stroke was a good thing. Although most of the money saving DIY projects had to be outsourced because I was physically unable to do them. Insulation and dry wall hanging are best left to someone with good balance and two hands. Especially ceilings. :o Not that I didn't think about it.

One of our biggest problems was door widths and wheelchair access. I can't tell you how many bruised and bloody knuckles my husband and I endured before we could replace the interior doors with their 36" counterparts. I was lucky enough to have a 3 1/2 foot hallway with an end by the back bedrooms wide enough to turn around a wheelchair in.

The biggest hurdle was the necessary room. You know the room I'm talking about...the bathroom. The portable commode made easy work of raising the toilet seat to a more manageable height. A pain to clean because it's plastic. Nice arms to make getting up and down, or even help balance you while standing. The bath chair fit inside the cast iron tub because I opted for the one without the transfer bench attachment. Both of my bathrooms have the standard 1950s tub/shower, a commode, and single sink. With just enough room to turn around in. A 5x7 piece of bath carpet fits perfectly with
cut outs around the commode base and sink. The major headache was the bathroom doors...27." They would have to be enlarged which meant restudding the whole wall and changing some wiring. The gift of a walk in tub from my children for father's day was a godsend even though it also meant flipping around how all the fixtures went. Remember the concrete slab that made the house so easily accessible to the inside? A major renovation project to make it easily accessible. It's not the tub that makes the basic walk-in tubs expensive, but the installation. $10K later, I had one bathroom accessible. Sort of. A year later my plumber installed a handicapped toilet. Showers are nice but sometimes you want to kick back and relax in a hot bath. Preferably with a glass of nonalcoholic wine (for me), a good book, some semi sweet chocolate and tons of fragrant bubbles. It was worth every penny! Yes, it's a female thing.

I finally finished the journey to make my old, ranch style home handicap accessible. So what do I do?
I put it on the market and move away to a double wide trailer on a mountain side. Welcome to a whole new set of accessibility challenges. Except I know that this trailer is a stepping stone of only two years so I'm not going to put a lot of money into renovating it. I'll make do with the old shower chair and portable, bedside commode once again. Yes, we'll have to rework the kitchen a bit. But with an outdoor kitchen already set up counter high. It won't be too difficult, but access into the house is. A more "permanent" set of concrete stairs will replace the wooden rickety ones.  A ramp will be built onto the back porch. Right now, this place is an accessibility nightmare, but once inside, it's accessible with wide doorways and flat layout.

In two years, Mel and my house will look like this. Roughly... the space between the two containers will be wide enough for a kitchen and common living room with sliding door access between the two containers. All floor spaces will be flat with a ramp to the right of the porch. Of course, my private side will have a perfectly accessible, handicapped bathroom.

The layout is just a concept right now. Definitely a lot more windows for natural light. A stucco finish on the outside and you'd never know it was shipping containers to begin with. Yes, it will be off the grid too with solar power and a wood stove for heat and cooking. A gray waste water recycling system underneath the house will water the fruit and nut orchard on the back side of the house. The metal garage will stay where it is and a sister out building will be "The Warren" will house the rabbitry. Compacted gravel walkways will provide sure footing for me. The chicken coop is behind the metal garage. In front of the rabbitry will be my raised beds for planting. Ten organic planting, elevated raised beds are being built out of used pallets as I type. We negotiated a labor cost cutting barter of free meals while on the job for the construction crews for the clearing and leveling some of the land. It cut our costs by 50%.

Mel asked me where we will live once the trailer is gone and before the new house is livable last week during one of our  brain-storming sessions. My answer...The Warren, of course. I mean it will be a 12x20 climate controlled space. Rabbits don't take up that much space.

So what can one partially paralyzed, spastic, post stroke woman do? Anything she darn well wants to! More on this as we make positive progress on fulfilling our dream/goal of self sufficiency. We will be starting another website, blog and YouTube channel to document it all too. So stay tuned. Four weeks and counting down until blast off.

Nothing is impossible.


  1. Hi Jo - all I can say is .. amazing determination and strength of mind to overcome all potential obstacles - good for you. So glad you're going to be starting a blog and YouTube channel so we can follow along ...

    Cheers and good luck to countdown - Hilary

  2. You are one tough cookie Jo. I will definitely check out that Youtube channel to see your journey.

  3. I had mentioned my dream/goal in here many months ago, and was disheartened by the realization that I couldn't fulfill it. When God shuts a door he also opens a window.

  4. The elderly and children's no longer have to be challenged by taking a bath, since walk in tub allow them to bathe without any hassle.

  5. The normal tubs are something risky for the children's and senior bathroom. so you are right that we should look into adding a Premier walk in Tub to our home not only for ours but also for the elderly people. the walk in tubs also consist of different handles and bars that can be used to balance for every one.

  6. Highly energetic post, I enjoyed that bit. Will
    there be a part 2?


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