Tables, Lights, Doors: My Other Nemeses

Hey guys,

Sorry for the late post today but, hey, it’s been one of those weeks (well, months). For those of you who’ve been reading the blog relatively regularly recently will know that I recently highlighted the latent discriminatory nature of the table-legs of a certain type of café table. I think it is time, though, that I bring up a similar, related issue: the height of certain appliances/counters that make life that much more difficult for those of us in wheelchairs. Namely, there are three things, in particular, I have a grudge against Table/Counter Height, Light Switches, and Self-Closing Doors.

Table Height

I had this problem recently when I went to see The Tale of Irma Vep at the Theatre on The Bay a couple of weeks ago. Before the show started I wanted to order a coffee while I waited for people to shuffle their way into the theatre before I took my seat in the customary empty space they leave available for wheelchairs. The problem with this plan of ‘world coffee domination’ was by the time I got to the Coffee Counter I found that to the barista I must have looked like a disembodied head as the counter itself came up to my neck height.

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The Mountain University, Student Antics, ‘Lifts’

So, as my UCT readers will know, the Semester started today. Yay… for now. It’s day one but in the few hours I’ve been on campus I’ve had to brush the cobwebs off of the Student Files stored somewhere very, very deep in my brain and actually engage.

I can see that, as the week continues, I have to actually have to sit up and pay attention. In between classes and the customary curriculum changes, I was struck by the fact that I am once again walking from the extreme ends of campus – not because that’s where my venues are but because that is where the accessible routes are located.

Why is it that the accessible routes are the most convoluted and hidden on campus?

I’m sure it is largely due to the fact that UCT is built on a mountain and built at a time when Disabled People were largely unseen and unheard. That said, the fact that I’m often walking far more than my non-disabled friends is somewhat ironic.

The ‘mountain build’ means that, of the buildings that are relatively accessible, it often involves one or more lifts. If you’ve been reading some of my other posts then you’d know that the UCT Lift Situation is… risky. 

I thought today would go according to plan and the lifts would be working the way you’d expect. They did. At the same time, though, I was reminded that the lifts are on a tenuous, thin lifeline. L50 (my best inanimate friend), for example, decided to clunk loudly enough halfway up the shaft that for a moment I had a serious concern that I’d be trapped in it… again.

Don’t get me wrong, I love what I’m studying but it’s times like lifts breaking down that I’m reminded that society, more often than not, allows those with physical problems to participate in it only as second-class citizens. Something as simple as a placement of a ramp or a lift’s operation speaks volumes. 

So, Why the Wheelchair?

I think it’s time I tell you why I’m in a wheelchair even though, technically, I have the ability to ambulate. While I might be able to physically create the motions which one requires for walking, I have less than zero balance on my feet. To illustrate how little balance I have something I often say to people, and I’m not exaggerating, “A brick would float before I’d be able to stand unaided.”

So, why the wheelchair?

In a word: simplicity. Yes, I can ‘walk’ in a walker but the majority of them are high-risk to use as, although the help with walking, they often do very little in the way of supporting you. Combine the lack of support with non-existent balance and the result is not a pretty one.

Yes, I can ‘walk’ in a walker but the majority of them are high-risk to use as, although the help with walking, they often do very little in the way of supporting you. Combine the lack of support with non-existent balance and the result is not a pretty one.

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Assistance Dogs

Nota as a pup sporting the ‘Puppy in Training’ uniform

I’ve had a Golden Retriever Service Dog from Guide Dogs Association of South Africa for a number of years now and cannot stress enough the difference these furry creatures can make. While Service, Guide, and Emotional-Support dogs do so much good for those they work with, it is astonishing to me to see how some people don’t understand them/the support they offer.

While misunderstandings are becoming less frequent, they still occur on occasion – Nota (the aforementioned Golden) and I, too, have had some problems in the past on this issue (the biggest escapade we found ourselves in you can read about below in The Weaponised Pooch).

Rather than harp on the problems that arise from those misunderstandings, I want to focus more on the uses I/others have for Assistance Dogs as well as the South African Training Process.

Nota’s Primary Use:

Carrying stuff I don’t want to/can’t.

Found this Silly Goof getting the wrong idea after school one day

One of the biggest problems for me was carrying things on my back, or at all for that matter. I don’t have as great a bone density in my spine as doctors keep telling me I should so I stopped carrying as much as I used to – at one stage in high school I was carrying about 10kg (22lbs) of stuff around. Fitting within health regulations as laid down from on high (my Vet), Nota took about half of the load off of me.

Nota’s Golden nature meant that while she liked Class, she liked not working a little bit better. So, by the time we got to varsity she was chuffed to discover that the load of stuff reduced even further between the both of us.

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Single-Legged Tables in Cafés: A Wheelchair’s New Nemesis.

Undoubtedly other wheelchair users can identify with this: tables in restaurants and cafés increasingly becoming inaccessible.

I don’t know how many times I’ve been to a café or the like wanting one simple thing: to sit at a table, order whatever’s on my mind, and basically be a normal café-going person relatively faceless in the crowd. Nope, no such luck for me. My evil plan fails right at step one.

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Example of the ‘Central Column Love Affair’ Table

How often have you been to a café etc. to find that tables – rather than having the four legs allowing tables to stand the exact same way they have pretty much since the first table was invented – they have this ridiculous ‘central column love affair’ going on with four feet and/or a base at the bottom of this column. The table, in this new arrangement, stands by balancing on a single, central column of some kind.

 

 

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Just How Much Does the Wheelchair Affect My Daily Living?

As I’ve said in a few other posts on this blog, I was born with a physical disability and have spent my entire life having to use some kind of mobility device. At no point in my life have I been entirely ‘normal’ and experienced life from a ‘non-disabled perspective’. Although I’ve peppered details of what my life is like, I don’t think, I have sat down and given you a comprehensive, all-in-one explanation of how  I view this topic. I plan on rectifying that now. To make this a little easier to write and, no doubt easier to read, I’m going to structure it around 3 questions.

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The Altitude Group: An Update

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Hi Guys,

In November last year, I started working for the Altitude Group as a Researcher. The Altitude Group’s goal is to empower disabled people within the economy and help to increase the numbers of disabled people who are active members of the South African workforce. I blogged about the work Altitude was doing some time ago here on in the Diaries – see the original post here.

I think The Altitude Group are doing a great job of trying to address the disturbingly low number of disabled people in employment in South Africa. I know that there are many, many problems facing South Africa at the moment but I am glad that, in some small way, they are addressing this issue.

Since my last post, I have helped with the administration of a couple of the Learnerships and I have become all the more convinced that the work that the Altitude Group does is fantastic and should be applauded.

In case you want to learn more, you can follow them on FaceBook or find them on Twitter.