Friday, August 17, 2007


I have spent a lifetime asking for things that those in my care need. I've done everything from a quiet word in the ear to ear shattering full frontal attacks - and every shade in between. I advocate with no embarrassment, I advocate from the stance that my job has many facets and creating healthy places, accessing appropriate serices and the right tools is one amongst them. Truth to tell, sometimes under all my bluster, I kinda enjoyed the fight.

But then is not now.

There is an office that I consult to on a really regular basis. Many of the staff there do not know of my new status as a disabled person because the disabled parking is right out side their door, and the office I consult in is right inside the door. Further the chair I sit in is tall and getting in and out is easy. So I always arrive early, Joe slowly walks me into the building, I hold on to his shoulder or arm for stability and then once down in the chair, I only get up and go to the washroom which is only a few feet from the door. It's been working. I'm not hiding my disability in any way, it's just that if I can do it walking, I will.

But there is a problem.

I noticed it right off. I've been working in that office for years before becoming disabled and I never noticed. The bathrooms have bars but the toilet is one of those that is really short, really close to the ground. Even with the bars, I'm not sure I could get up and off it. I size it up every morning that I arrive and every morning I see that it hadn't grown, magically, over night. So we worked out a weird strategy. If I had a need to toilet, ok, poo, I'd give Joe a call. He would be working about 20 minutes away, he'd come and pick me up and whisk me over to a fast food joint where I could use their john. I never had to use this fail safe strategy but it was nice to have it.

Joe said, "Why don't you just ask for a tall toilet?"

I said, "I can't do that."

We'd had that conversation several times. Then Joe through in a twist.

"If you had a client who had to go to that building and couldn't go to the washroom because they've got kindergarten toilets, what would you do, I was tired and distracted by other thoughts so I didn't immediately see where he was going. "I'd sit them down and talk to them about making the place accessible."

"Well, you've got a disabled client who needs a tall toilet, so ask."

I've known the director for years. The idea of talking about my need to poo in her work establishment was oddly difficult. But I did. I pulled her into a meeting room before the day started and told her what I needed. Her eyes widened. "Our toilets aren't accessible? We've got bars up." I explained that the bars are good but the toilet is really really low. "Of course we'll make the place accessible for you. No problem." A few seconds later she was out at the front desk talking to the secretary about investigating where to get a tall toilet and investigating how to get it installed.

That was it.

I'm not sure why asking for something - for someone else - is easy.

Asking for me is hard.

The way my disability is progressing, soon I won't really be able to do the walk from car to meeting room, I'd better get better at advocating from ground camp.

I'm going to have to take myself on as a client.

Oh, no, more paperwork.


ntmjbmom said...

That is so advocating for my daughter with Down Syndrome, I found my "voice" in other areas of my life..but it's still a lot easier to do it for my kids than me!
Weird how that works!


rechal said...

Loved this one, Dave. I'm on the board of Hope House in Norfolk, and was diagnosed with fibromyalgia a few years ago. As loudly as I will advocate for the people we support, it's still difficult for me to ask people to help me get out of a car -- after all, I don't LOOK disabled.