Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Traveling with Disabilities: Trip to Canada

- By Pinalben "Pinky" Patel -

My journey to CN Tower in Toronto, Canada and Niagara Falls was fun. It was a long drive. It took us two days to get to Toronto with an overnight stop at a town in Ohio about eight hours from Paducah. Accessibility was not a really big problem on the road. When we needed a bath room break, we would stop at a live exit where there are many name brand places like McDonald's or Pilot travel stations that guarantee to have wheelchair accessible restrooms.

The next day we passed the USA and Canada border at Detroit. The bridge on the border was called Ambassador Bridge and we had to drive on it to get to Canada. It was beautiful. I wish we were able to get a picture of the moment, but my dad was driving, my mom is technologically illiterate and I can not hold the camera straight!

We went to Toronto first because we were not only going to see CN Tower there but we were visiting family also. On the way to Toronto from the Canadian border, we went to Kitchener, Ontario to see some relatives. In Kitchener, we also stopped at a Wendy's. I got some chicken nuggets and it was funny because I would get those same nuggets for a dollar here and there they were three dollars!

Most of our relatives in Toronto live in high-rise apartment buildings, which are not easily accessible. We figured private homes are not accessible so we took my wheeled potty chair but the bathroom doors in the apartments were extremely narrow. My dad had to take out a handle of the potty chair for it to fit through the doors. Painstakingly, we made it through four nights in Toronto.

All of the public places we went to in Toronto were accessible. The bathrooms were just like the ones in the USA: some places had accessible stalls and some had private rooms. Actually, I thought accessible stalls or bathrooms were a little bit roomier than the ones in the USA. But the weird thing about them was the grab bars were at a steep angle so basically if a person with a disability needed to hold on to the bar to sit on the commode, he or she would need long arms.

We decided to see Niagara Falls on the way back. Yes, seeing the Falls from the Canadian side was so much better than the American side. We saw the Canadian Falls during the day and spent a night at Buffalo, New York to see the American Falls at night. We saw many other places in Toronto, not only CN Tower. I just don't understand what is so great about Tim Horton coffeehouse, which is so famous in Canada according to one of my cousins. It was not Starbucks in my books!

However, a person who has been dealing with a disability most of her life and who likes to think of herself as a physical disabilities advocate, I notice places where wheelchair accessibility is needed. It just makes me angry when I see public places don't have accessibility even though it could be easily installed with little cost. If it were a poor country like India where people with disabilities are still called the insulting handicap word, I would not be so angered but this was an advanced country and some places did not have the required accessibility?

I found four places to be really annoying during my visit. One was a bus/boat ride in Toronto. I wish someone would have given me the name of that place. Then there was a store in one mall that was underground and there seem to be only stairs to go down to shop in it. The other was a boat at Niagara Falls that takes people right next to the fall and my cousins told me there wasn't accessibility on it.

The main annoyance was the building we stayed in. I understand that private apartments don't have to be accessible, but shouldn't getting into the building be accessible? Since the apartment building was high-rise, there were elevators but getting to the elevators was the annoyance. My cousin found a flat sheet of wood that we used as a portable ramp for my electric chair. Most of the time, we felt stuck in the building once we were in because it would be such a hassle to come out. I wish I met the owner of the building-- unfortunately I don't speak as well as I write to give him a piece of my mind! Yes, it would be so helpful if architects or contractors spent a day in a wheelchair before designing a building.

I had been told I am the only person in a wheelchair who thinks about accessibility and advocacy. Of course, that advice is wrong. People with disabilities don't usually and should not accept things the way they are especially if they are unfair. I just really wanted to give you a heads-up if you are ever in a situation like mine.

But in no way I am saying this trip was not worth it. It was a great trip! I am so grateful that I got to go to these places because I know that there are many people who don't get to see what I saw. We also attended a baby shower for my sister-in-law (in my Indian culture, a baby shower is not a small female-only party; it is a big ceremony!). The party was fabulous!

Photo courtesy of Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/joie86/3731610979/

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

CAL Poetry Contest - Contestant #2

Vote Now "Like" your favorite poem on our Facebook page!

C.A.L. Center

The C.A.L. Center means to me,
That I can live on my own ; and feel so free.
Do the things I want to do;
Feel I'm the one who made it through.

With the staff close by,
To lend a helping hand;
And let me know ,they understand,
To help me do the things I plan.

By Howard Plank

CAL Poetry Contest - Contestant #1

Vote Now "Like" your favorite poem on our Facebook page!

"CAL what you mean to me, without your information and helpful resources there is no telling how my standing would be.

Like time, money, and home management this is just to name a few, there is even more things that this Center for Accessible Living can to do.

Wow! What a difference CAL has made with great knowledge and great experience up to this date.

All of the services they have for those that are disabling from state to state;

This is a place to get a fresh start, when it comes to the pride in the workers they do they take it to heart.

CAL that has a passion for healing; and a change for someone with a disability having not known what to do when it comes to independent living.

Cal makes it easier for us to deal with opportunity and responsibility to exercise their rights.

Independent living is what we do to help them make their own decisions day –to- day life."

- By Stacee Spurling

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thank You Note - We're Happy We Could Help

March 3, 2011

Mr. John Leonard
Center For Accessible Living
305 W. Broadway Suite 200
Louisville, KY 40202

Dear Mr. Leonard:

This is a letter of thanks to all those involved in building the ramp for my mother, Frances -- a thank you from the bottom of my heart! It has not only made the situation easier for me and her, but it will improve her quality of life, because I was having to leave her at home because I could no longer negotiate the steps, having to carry her heavyweight walker down the steps and then go back to get her and help her down the steps. I am no “spring chicken” myself. Sometimes, depending on the situation, we have to use a wheelchair for her. Now she will be able to accompany us more often.

The builders did a wonderful, professional job building the ramp. Everyone who has seen it has commented on it positively. There have been no negative comments. Some of the comments have been:
“They really did a good job.”
“That will last a long time.”
“Everything fits together perfectly.”
“They must have used a nail gun to drive the nails”, because he didn’t notice hammer marks. (He also commented that he notices details.)

These are only a few that come to mind. Our comment is that “it exceeds expectations”.
I think this is a wonderful program because it addresses the handicap without regard to a financial need. My mother lives with us because she cannot live alone physically or financially. We could not have afforded to build it for her but the fact that we are responsible for her may have caused problems with financial qualification. I hope this program can help others as much as it has helped us.

Thanks again for all you have done to the program coordinators, builders, program funders, and anyone else responsible for the program that I have not mentioned.

Yours truly, 
Beverly Trail

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Reflections On The Long Road We Have Come

- By Barbara Davis -

In the 26 years that I have been working for CAL in some capacity or other, I have seen a lot of positive changes take place for individuals with disabilities. I am proud to say that in various ways, I have had some small part in some of these changes, particularly in the area of awareness.

Recent changes in my disabilities have caused me to pause and reflect back on the long road we have come. This reflection has also made me aware of how far we still have to go.
As a teenager in the late 60s and early 70s, I used a wheelchair until surgeries and other treatments enabled me to walk with a walker, then a cane, and then “corrective” shoes. I lived in Florida then, which means that every time visiting relatives came to our town, my family took them to the various tourist attractions in that fair state. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go to many of them because the attractions were not accessible. I stayed home and waited for them to bring me souvenirs from wherever they went. These days whenever I go home I can go to any tourist attraction I want to, whether I am using my chair or not. I can also fly home with my much greater ease than I could when I first moved to Louisville. Having said that, trying to board a plane with multiple disabilities today is still not a picnic.

I am thankful that I don’t have to walk up to total strangers in the mall or elsewhere and ask them to make a phone call for me. Before cell phones became widely used, phone booths had finally become equipped with amplifiers so that I could make phone calls myself. Currently, I have a cell phone that is hearing-aid compatible. The volume could stand improvement, but most of the time I can hear on it decently enough if I really concentrate.

Thanks to improvements in transportation and other services, I can a ride a bus to almost anywhere I want to go, and I can call 211 to find out how to get on a 10-year waiting list for attendant care, a ramp, housekeeping assistance, or some other service. I can remember a time when buses weren’t accessible, and none of those services were offered at all, let alone complete with a waiting list.

The heat this past summer has caused my MS and other disabilities to worsen. I am once again using a wheelchair. I am not sure yet if this will be permanent, as without health insurance I cannot get the needed diagnostic care and treatment. Without medical documentation, I can’t get the services I need, so I feel like I am almost back to the point I was when I was a teenager, only this time I don’t have parents to help me out the way I did then.

What I have discovered during this second time around in a wheelchair is that while there are more accessible buildings than there used to be, there are still a lot of buildings that are not accessible. There are a lot of sidewalks in this town that are difficult – some even impossible – to ride a wheelchair on. There are curb cuts that don’t really seem like curb cuts, and people leave trash cans and other heavy objects in the middle of the sidewalk, so that I am not able to navigate my chair any further until someone moves the object for me.

I have also discovered that while disability awareness has improved attitudes and perceptions that able-bodied people have toward those of us who use mobility devices, there is still much room for improvement. Every day I encounter those who talk down to me as if I were a child, who rush to do things for me without giving me a chance to do them myself, and who stare at me as those wondering why anyone would let someone like me out in public.

My reflections on how things were then and how things are now lead me to the conclusion that, yes, things are much better for people with disabilities than they once were. Changes in laws, in attitudes, and advances in technology have enabled us to live full and independent lives, as long as we can get the services we need, or are able to afford the technology that exists to help us in many areas. I am also keenly aware that those of us who work and/or advocate for disability rights and services cannot rest on our laurels. Although we have come far, we still have a long way to go. We must not stop advocating for funding, for advances in technology, for pubic accessibility, for improvement in employment opportunities, and other services and programs that will enable us to become fully independent and integrated into our community. We also need to continue to improve awareness, so that attitudes toward us can keep advancing. With all of us working together, we can enjoy a bright future for ourselves and geerations to come.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Write a Poem about CAL and Win!

Have you been touched by CAL? Tell us about it and win! We’re having a poetry contest this month. This is open to consumers, family members, supporters, friends and anyone who likes CAL and poetry. Submit your original four- to eight-line poems or stanza that reflects what you think about the work or mission of the Center. The top three winners will get a prize and the 1st place poem will be entered by the Center for Accessible Living into the Heart & Soul Grant program. This year’s Heart & Soul grant program, put on by the CTK Foundation, is offering top winning organizations up to $10,000. Interested in what $10,000 would do for CAL consumers?

Go ahead and see, I’ll wait.

Not bad, right?

So, show us your talent. Here are the details:

Submissions must be an original four- to eight-line poem or stanza that reflects what you think about the work or mission of the Center for Accessible Living.

Submissions will be accepted until 9 pm March 24th in one of three ways: Write it on CAL’s Facebook wall, put it in this blog’s comments or submit it via email.

Keep it clean and appropriate, please. Materials deemed inappropriate will be removed.

YOU vote! We will post all the submissions throughout the month on our Facebook page and you vote by “liking” your favorites. So watch our page this month and vote for your favorites. Winners will be chosen by your votes and CAL staff input.

Winning Prizes. Well, you’re all winners, but we at CAL understand a little incentive never hurts. So, here’s what we’re offering:

3rd place: CAL T-shirt and your poem will be put on our website, calky.org.

2nd place: CAL T-shirt and your poem will be put on our website, calky.org.

1st place: Your poem will be submitted as CAL’s official entry in the Heart & Soul grant and put on our website, calky.org. You will also receive a messenger bag, water bottle and CAL T-shirt. Messenger bag and water bottle generously donated by one of our wonderful partner companies, Citi Cards.

So, get writing!

Photo Credit: Flickr