Specially Adapted Equipment

At this point I just laugh to myself whenever I see the ridiculous set-up of most public bathrooms. Grab bars are angled funny and about 5ft away from...anything. And the toilet paper dispenser is either 2ft above my head or 3ft away from the toilet! Since disabilities vary so much I can see the challenge presented when building a "standard" accessible bathroom (or standard accessible anything for that matter); actually, when you really think about it, it is pretty much impossible. Today I am wanted to write about how I navigate inaccessible accessibility - not just public structures but the day-to-day living necessities:

Accessible Clothing
Most O.I.'ers are smaller in stature so it's pretty obvious that our clothes need to be as well. But there are other tips involved than just shopping in the child or junior department, or getting the smaller size of adult clothing - what happens if you wind up in a spica cast? Or what are the easiest pants to put on over that long-leg cast? What shoes do you wear right after your leg comes out of a cast? Here are a few things that might help:
1. Zip-Off pants/shorts: These are incredibly handy and I would hug the person who invented them. It's pretty self explanatory, but now you can go without the awkwardness of one foot freezing and the other snug in a cast!  

2. Athletic warm-up pants: I like these because of their stretchy material, and the zipper piece on the side of the leg. Another added bonus is their elastic waist band makes bathroom trips less of a hassle when you already have a bulky cast to deal with. Also the polyester stuff doesn't make it feel like an oven in your cast! 

3. Crocs/slip ons/flip-flops: For me, putting a sneaker or a shoe on after I just got out of a cast can agitate my leg. My ankle is not used to the added weight (and unsupported weight) at the end of my  leg. Not to mention, most times sneakers require a bit of pushing, shoving, and wiggling to get your foot comfortably inside - trying to do that after 5 months in a cast can be pretty painful! So after learning many lessons I now slip on my flip flops, or I break out my light weight Crocs, I also have slip on Chuck Taylor sneaks that I love!

4. Leggings/Over sized shorts: These are stretchy and work particularly well if you are lucky enough to have one leg free from a spica cast. I spent way too much time in spica casts when I was younger, I pretty much looked as thrilled as this kid below whenever I was in one:  

4. Zip-up hoodies/Button Up shirts/Vests: I pretty much lived in a hoody when I was in high school, but aside from their being timelessly trendy these are incredibly useful when you have a broken arm. You can get them in various sizes to accommodate casts that require larger arm holes, or if you can't fit the cast through, just zip-it up and you're still snug! Vests are a cinch to throw over because you don't need to play tug-of-war with the sleeve as you try to get the cast through.

Fracture-Related Accommodations:
When I was much younger (elementary school aged) I broke my legs frequently. This meant that I would be stuck in a long leg cast or a spica cast - making things like showering and getting myself dressed difficult without my parents' help. My mother would used to hold me on her lap with just my head in the shower as she washed my hair for me - it was annoying and I hated the dependence. By the time I was in middle school (and fractured my femur at least 4 times) I announced to my parents that I figured out a way to wash my hair on my own, here's how:
1. My shower was accessible, this means the shower head was attached to a long metallic hose that could be held in my hand
2. I asked my parents to turn the shower on for me and place the shower head in a place that I could reach
3. I reclined my wheelchair and parked it so that the handle bars and the top of my head pointed in to the shower
4. I then slid myself all the way to the top of my reclined wheelchair and was able to wash my hair like that... for the next 3-5 months of being in the cast 

I also learned how to angle my wheelchair next to the toilet so that instead of a long-leg cast just hanging off the toilet seat and dangling around, it could rest on the seat of my wheelchair or on an extended foot rest while I went about my business. 

Since I fracture my femurs and legs most often, I have always had a recline-able wheelchair. Even these however were unfit for bulky spica casts or long-leg casts that were longer than the length of a fully extended leg rest; as a result, I would have to rent a special recline-able manual wheelchair from my medical insurance company. These wheelchairs would always take forever to order, and often by the time they arrived I no longer needed to lay flat on my back! After years of this repeat performance and frustration of dealing with medical companies, my mother decided to take matters into her own hands: 
This board has around since the 7th grade
She measured out a wood board that was as long as a long-leg cast, cut out a piece of foam mattress the same length, then covered the entire thing with a piece of water-proof plastic (blue, my favorite color). At the edge of the board she put two hooks in and threaded shoe lace through the hooks - now I essentially had a portable recliner! Whenever I broke my leg she would whip out the board and tie it at the appropriate angle to the back of my wheelchair. It was comfy to sit on, durable, and always on hand! 
See how happy I am with the board? Oh, and w/friends too :-)

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