Thursday, May 26, 2011

Can't Get There From Here

I don't know the real origin of this saying.  I was told it was a one line joke from Maine and people always repeat it with a Maine drawl, "Ya can't get theya frum heya".

The thing I've been pondering all night is handicapped access.  I happened across a news article that had been posted to FB regarding the definition of disabled according to the ADA.  Once done with the newspaper article I went on to the ADA web site and started reading about access to medical services, social services and recreational facilities. 

Now that I travel outside of the house mostly by wheelchair access is becoming an issue for me: doors without automatic openers; getting stuck on a raised threshold; no HC parking available.  Or worse yet, my arch nemesis STAIRS.  I am beginning to hate stairs.  Since my crash four weeks ago I haven't been able to navigate stairs even on good days. 

I am realizing how many of my service providers have single or multiple flights of stairs that have to be navigated to access their offices.  These are people that are renting in older pre 1960 buildings.  So far I've counted my dentist, my sleep dentist (he takes care of my anti snoring device), my masseuse and my psychologist.  They have two short flights, six long flights, one short flight and two medium flights with no hand rails, respectively.

Although my sleep dentist has the longest stair case, my shrink's office is actually the worst for me since I see her weekly.  Her office is on the second floor of an old Victorian house. There is no HC spot which means sometimes I have to beach my car in the road, traverse the lot to the first set of steps up to the front lawn.  Then I have the stair case to the front door.  A step up into the house and then two flights up with no handrail.  I actually broke one of the fancy balusters when I was trying to hang on so I wouldn't loose my balance.  So far I've had my husband help me navigate them on bad days.  I have to go slow and I stop often.  I sometimes have to hold on to him for balance particularly on the flights with no railings.  A couple of times he even got behind me and shoved me up the stairs.

Then three weeks ago I was on my own.  I knew I wasn't doing well at the base of the stairs but thought I could make it up.  I just figured I take it one step at a time.  By the time I was half way up the second flight I was crawling on my hands and knees.  The staircase is steep and narrow so this was easier than it sounds.  About four steps from the top I thought I wouldn't make it but it was even worse to turn around and go back so after a rest I took another step.  Rest.  Step.  Rest.  Step.  When I hit the landing I just propped myself up against the railing hoping the thing wouldn't collapse under my weight.  I now had full on head bobbing, herky jerky mode.  Luckily her door is at the top of the stairs so after another rest I lunged at it.  Opened it and I must have been late because she came out into the waiting room.  I was now in tears and couldn't talk or move.  She came over and helped me walk to a chair.  I needed her to help me balance so I didn't fall over just walking.  We ended up having our session in her waiting room.  She had to drag the furniture around and set me up.  She got to see me at my worst.  Bobbing and jerking all over the place, unable to take my own coat off or even talk very well.  She was upset but did her best to accommodate me.  I had to call my husband to come rescue me.  I was literally stuck on the second floor of the building and needed my 6'2" strong hubby to help me back down the stairs.  Thankfully he had the presence of mind to beach my car on the sidewalk right in front of the front door with the passenger door open so I had the shortest distance to travel possible.

Well, the next week wasn't any better.  This time I knew better than to attempt the stairs.  I sent my son up to let her know I was down in the lobby.  There were two chairs there which were comfy but there was little privacy and it was my job to listen for people coming down the stairs.  The other issue is that the lobby is unheated and that particular day turned out to be unseasonably cold.   We both froze and she decided that was a bad place to have our session.

This week when my appointment came I knew I couldn't even drive myself over there never mind tackle the stairs on my own so I called up to cancel.  She called me at home and we tried the phone session.  I hated this option even more than the lobby option.  It was just too intimate for me.  I felt like I was talking to my mom instead of my shrink.  When we got to the end of the session she told me that in the future if I couldn't make it to the office or up the stairs either I would have to do the session by phone or give her 24 hours notice or she would have to charge me for the session.  I understand this is her policy and she gives it out in written form during the first session but we had talked about my special circumstances and she indicated that she would be more flexible with me due to the unpredictable nature of the CFS.  I guess this was fine as long as I didn't call her on it.  Now that I've taken advantage of the offer three weeks in a row she is drawing a line in the sand.

I find this a tad irritating.  I get the fact that she is running a business and that she has policies.  Trouble is that CFS is so unpredictable and she has STAIRS.  Lots of steep nasty stairs with no railings.  If she didn't have stairs there wouldn't be an issue with me making it to my appointments.

Now one of the interesting things I was reading in the ADA site is that disabled customers have a right to the same treatment as a fully abled person.  This means access to the exact same services in the exact same manner.  In other words she would have to either modify the building, move to one that is ADA compliant or provide an alternate meeting space that I can access and that would provide comfort and privacy for our sessions.

Now I'm in a moral quandary.  I like her.  We have a long history together and we have worked well together in the past.  However, I don't like the fact that she is becoming inflexible and I'm not comfortable with the phone sessions.  But what do I do?  I could report her.  But if I report her then to be fair I should also report the other providers.  Two of them are even in a town owned building which is considered even more egregious than a private building being inaccessible.  I like all of them and wish to use their services in the future.  Why are so many of them in buildings that have stairs?  This is awful!  If I don't get better am I going to have to get a new dentist or a new shrink?  I know I'm going to have to cancel my upcoming sleep dentist appointment.  There is no way even if hubby pushed and shoved me that I would make it up three floors which is six flights of stairs.  I had trouble with them last summer and I was doing way better then.  I just don't know what to do.  Why do I have to give up practitioners that it took me a while to find, practitioners that I like and have been seeing for years because they have chosen to rent in ADA non compliant offices?  This isn't fair!  Why do I have to be the bad guy here??  Why do I even feel guilty about this??  All I know is that I can't get there from here.

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