February was busy and sad

February has always been a rough month for me. Being cold actually hurts and it’s exhausting. My hands and feet are always cold in February unless I’m in bed or wrapped up in an electric blanket on the couch. But, you can’t stay horizontal all day or nothing will get done so it’s up and at ‘em.

We had to put our beloved dog, Val, down early in the month.

Our beautiful Val

It was one of the most difficult things Ron and I have had to do during our 30 years together. Val had been with us for 14 years. He was part of our little family and we loved him dearly. When he went he was blind, deaf, and had a bad skin condition. His quality of life was severely curtailed and he slept all day and night, only rousing to eat as often as possible and roam about the house a bit bouncing off walls while he looked for me. We loved him, he loved us and it has been hard without him. I still tear up when I think about him or look at his picture. A little cedar box containing his ashes sits on our bookshelf and in the spring I’ll put them in the garden where he used to chase squirrels.

I finished an online course on Visitability through the University of Buffalo.
The concept includes:
– An entrance without a step or threshold that is on an accessible path of travel from the street, sidewalk or driveway. An accessible path of travel has no steps, is at least 36 in. wide and is not steeper than 1:20 (5% grade) for walkways or 1:12 for ramps.
– Throughout the ground floor, doorways designed to provide 32 inches clear space and hallways that have at least 36 in. of clear width.
– Basic access to a half bath or full bath on the ground floor. As defined here, basic access simply denotes sufficient depth within the bathroom for a wheelchair to enter, and for its user to close the door behind it. Basic access to a full bath is preferable to a half bath, but is not required.
– Electrical switches and outlets not lower than 18 inches to center, nor higher than 48 inches to center. (This element is included in some, but not all visitability initiatives.)
and, some people add lever handles on doors. Lever handles are easier for everyone. A room on the main floor that can easily be converted into a bedroom is also a plus.
Habitat for Humanity Niagara and the Niagara Centre for Independent Living are interested in furthering the concept in Niagara.

Alison Langley of the Niagara Falls Review wrote a really good article on my AccessibleNiagara.com website and my Access is more than an Open Door DVD. You can read it at: http://www.niagarafallsreview.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=2960279
That article lead to several more Niagara pages being created on other accessible travel sites in New Zealand and the U.K.

I also attended a day long workshop on the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Customer Service Standards and wrote a column for the paper on it that will be published next Saturday. Because I cannot get off a normal toilet I had to come home during the lunch break. This is what stops me from doing a great many things. Don’t know the answer but I’ll likely sort something out. No use of my legs, no push, and extremely weak hands mean I cannot pull myself up using grab bars. No finger strength means I cannot pull up my slacks even if I sit on the side of my scooter and use a urinal. It’s a delicate, frustrating situation that causes social isolation.
Sister and I took in an orchid repotting

Luna

workshop at a local greenhouse where we met Don Davis and his gorgeous parrot, Luna.
The publisher of the newspaper where I worked from 1959-60 and then 1970 to 1982 died at 61 of cancer. Henry Burgoyne was someone I’ll never forget. He was in line for the job of publisher of the paper after his grandfather and father. I first met him when he was only 11 and still in short pants. We worked municipal night election results together in The Standard editorial room in 1959. He loved fast cars and having fun but, most importantly, he was a boss for whom you wanted to do your best. He grew up with us all looking on and I like him a great deal.

Mother is going downhill and we’ve been told she’s lost 10 pounds in the last month. I personally think it’s her way of shutting down whether she’s totally aware of it or not. Not eating is something she can control in a world where everything else is controlled for her. She’ll be 96 in about a month. I’ve written her obituary.

Funding for a big job is due to come through, one way or another, in a week or so and I’m in discussions for even more funding for another huge project I want to do before I’m unable to do anything.

I still haven’t learned to use Dragon Dictate properly. Still typing with the knuckles of my little fingers. Somehow the words come more easily typing my fingers …er knuckles, than they do on my tongue. I was at a meeting last week and said a few things that simply didn’t come out the way they should have. I think much more clearly on the screen.

Snow, snow, snow. We’ve been dumped on several times this month and the world is often softened and quieted by tons of the white stuff.

So, off we go into March. The snow will soon melt away, the ditches and rivers will run high and the sun will shine a little more often; another Canadian January and February behind us.

A house is for those who live in it

The Saturday (Toronto) Star always gives me something (more) to think about.  As if I needed it. It helps mold my perspective on life and let’s me see what others are doing and thinking.

There are two articles in it today that I think work together:  Handicap vs heritage on the front page and Helen Henderson’s column on discrimination.  The first article looks at a couple, (Geoff and Melissa Teehan) who want to tear down an old but interesting house in Toronto, which doesn’t have official heritage designation, and build a modern accessible one to accommodate Melissa, who is a quadriplegic.  The neighbors, in particular the one across the road, are firmly against it. The question is: should the couple be allowed to tear down an old house to build a new one if neighbors object? What’s more important: the life of this woman who needs to be as independent as possible or the look of a neighborhood? Both? Think about it.

I’m with the life of the woman with the word “life” being the key. Housing is for the living: to shelter us, to allow us a place to nurture ourselves and our families. If some of it remans for generations, that’s a bonus, but it shouldn’t set precedence over the needs of the living. And, remember, every building in existence now was once new. Everything that is new and different is usually shunned by those who don’t want change.  That one house in Toronto should be torn down to give a woman a better life won’t make a bit of difference in 50 years or even 20.

In the United States some enlightened lawmakers are bringing into municipal and state bylaws the concept of Visitability whereby every home built has at least one barrier free entrance, a first floor washroom big enough to accommodate a wheelchair and doorways wide enough to let a wheelchair pass through.  This enables people using mobility devices to not old visit each other but it allows those who own the house to age in place. No more having to move if someone has a stroke, or develops some other physically debilitating problem.  This concept isn’t always popular with builders and municipalities but it is gaining ground.

A family wanting to build an accessible home to replace one that likely is very unfriendly is progress in my books. Does the fact that I can’t visit any of my friends’ homes affects my logic? Of course it does. Making homes accessible, even one at a gut wrenching time, makes sense to me.

Helen Henderson’s column (Discrimination, disrespect a fact for people living with disabilities – Toronto Star – May 29, 2010) tells us that 70% of people with disabilities (those interviewed) felt discriminated against and excluded.  I don’t think we are all paranoid. Of course we’re discriminated against!  Every time an architect designs a subdivision with no regard for access we are discriminated against.  Every time a theatre group puts on a show in a totally inaccessible place, we’re discriminated against.  I could make a list as long as your arm. Shops, hotels, homes, professional offices, banks, restaurants, so many places I’d like to go… inaccessible and impossible for me to use. There are millions of me. Millions being shut out.

I know the woman across the road from the lovely old home in Toronto doesn’t want her neighbourhood to be upset by placing a modern accessible home where the vintage home is now but that’s progress and what she is doing to stop it is, I think, discriminatory. What do you think?