One Year Later: Catch Me if You Can

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by Ralph Yaniz |

forward, medicare, global accessibility, rights, accessibility improvements

March 1 was my one-year anniversary with Bionews Services, the publisher of Muscular Dystrophy News. Defining a period in this manner allows me to see how far I’ve come in the past year. My columns have focused on a number of topics. In my column from May 2019, I had my first opportunity to write about creative living. And that has continued to be a theme in my writing.

Two months after that creative living column appeared, I took a fall and injured my right shoulder. The injury was severe and, even today, I am not completely healed. This has given me a whole new level of creative need. For example, getting myself up from a low chair had been possible, albeit with some shoulder pain. It is now impossible. It is now essential to either find a higher chair, a couch, or a wider seat. A wider seat allows me to turn myself and push out of the seat with my left arm.

At home, I was able to buy a couple of higher chairs and make other adaptations. But when I went out, things were not that simple. In August, my column “Inaccessible Accessibility” discussed these societal barriers. In many ways it felt like running into a wall. And the individuals I dealt with at public venues were reluctant to make accommodations.

All this led to my December column about my trip to a football game. “My Adventure in a Wheelchair” describes how my friend and I tried something new. The experiment, putting me in a wheelchair for the game, worked well. I was able to easily get in and out. In essence, I brought my chair with me.

The wheelchair we used belonged to my friend. It was a small transport chair meant for moving people from point to point. It only had small wheels and did not allow the rider to self-propel using their arms. But this success got me thinking.

By sheer coincidence, March 1 was also International Wheelchair Day. Coincidences happen, and can lead to good things. We all have moments where the stars align.

I was in the middle of a month-long trip out west that would include taking in a Chicago Cubs baseball game in Arizona. I had driven out to California from my home in Chicago. And right around March 1, I decided to look for a wheelchair. I already travel with my SUV loaded with all sorts of assistive technology. To prepare for the baseball game in Arizona, I decided it was time to add a wheelchair.

I had already been looking at wheelchairs online. Sites like Amazon and eBay, to name a couple, had a good selection of both manual and electric wheelchairs. But I knew from experience that I needed to actually see and test these. It was imperative that I be able to get in and out. I also wanted the wheelchair to be lightweight and foldable, and manageable by myself. 

I found a medical supply store in the Los Angeles area that had a big selection of chairs. After spending an hour looking and testing I decided to get a manual chair. It was rather large, which helped because it was higher and wider. It was also lightweight and a perfect fit in the back of my SUV. I was able to leave the shop with what I needed. I also know from past research that there are options available to retrofit the wheelchair with electric capabilities. This could be something to look at in the future.

A few days after buying my chair I went to beautiful Venice Beach. I parked my car and opened my back hatch. Then, I lifted the chair and set it on the ground. I left the hatch open and sat in the back of my SUV while I added the leg attachments. These attachments are easy to put on and take off. The armrests also go up and down.

Once the chair was set up, I stood up, closed the hatch, and locked the SUV. Then I rolled the chair back against the back of the car and applied the brakes. I sat down, adjusted the footrests, unlocked the brakes and went for a spin.

Yes, it was a perfect day at Venice Beach. The sun was shining. The birds were singing. The dogs were playing. And I was on a roll.


Note: Muscular Dystrophy News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Muscular Dystrophy News or its parent company, Bionews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to muscular dystrophy.


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