Saturday, August 25, 2007

Wheelage Tax

Belle and I had a first yesterday. We took the wheelchair and practiced in a public place other than the sidewalk in front of my house. Molly had a physical at the Woodwinds Health Center. While she was doing her thing with the best pediatrician in the whole wide world (BPWWW), Belle and I worked on her heel, side, front and behind positions with the wheelchair. After some coaxing, Belle opened both doors to the clinic, did an "around" and a "back" and negotiated the small space with two power doors pretty well.

We practiced "back" at both heel and side along the corridor wall. She struggled at first - not liking the small space between the chair and the wall, but with encouragement she was soon doing it like a pro. We practiced "push" with the elevator call button, then "wait" while I positioned the chair to hold the doors open to prevent them from closing on Belle while she entered. We even went to the bathroom together. Being a health facility, "push" plates were available for Belle to use to open the bathroom doors. We practiced going in and out of the stalls and operating the "push" plate to exit the bathroom. We practiced "leave it" with the piece of candy we passed in the hallway, we did "jump up" on a long bench and "get dressed" and "undress" while she was up on the bench. We practiced "across" then "brace" (surprising several onlookers who didn't realize we were training). We even practiced "push" with the wheelchair both on and off carpet. Once Belle got the hang of it - she had me going pretty good by pushing the back of the wheelchair with her snout. Finally, Belle practiced "drop/stay" when the BPWWW came out to say hi and talk about what's next for Mols.

The things that surprised me about the session; the number of health professionals that approached to ask if they could pet my dog, the number of people that didn't realize we were training, and finally, the inadequacy of the adapted facilities. For example, in the bathroom, the sink was lowered, but not low enough. My hands were above my elbows which meant the water ran down my arms when I tried to wash my hands. Maneuverability was also limited - if I'd had a power chair or a scooter, I probably could not have negotiated the small bathroom. The elevators were too small - if there had been any people in them, I would not have been able to maneuver entering or exiting with both the chair and Belle. And why can't the call buttons be lower and bigger?

All in all, it was a great training session - and an eye-opener as well. If one of the newest healthcare facilities built with the latest in adapted building codes and products was that user-unfriendly, it must be a difficult world indeed for those who must negotiate every building, new or old, adapted or not, while on wheels.

1 comment:

ChaChi Lu said...

You are a smart little pup!
~ ChaChi Lu Pink Champagne