push it

When ya gotta go, ya gotta go. But when you are out in public sometimes getting TO “the go” isn’t always so easy.

From an outsider’s perspective most handicap-accessible public restrooms seem more than ample and well-fitted for folks in wheelchairs. When both Mo & I were wheelchair bound during sickness/injury it was very plain to see how things on paper don’t always work in real life.

For instance, click here for a look at a planning guide for accessible restrooms. Looks pretty good, right? Wrong.

Look at Fig. 7 again. Is it just me or does the idea of having to grab onto the toilet seat seem disgusting? I mean, we are talking about public restrooms here.

Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 7.19.41 PM

At our November meeting some members brought up using public johns with our guest speaker, physical therapist Mark Manago. We had been talking about exercising our upper bodies to ensure we have the strength and wherewithal to recover from a fall or to compensate for larger yet weakened muscle groups. It was apparent that everyone has had trouble with what are “supposed” to be handicap accessible stalls.

The biggest problem seems to be the actual grab bars. Here’s a look at the approved schematic again.

Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 7.26.33 PM

The problem with grab bars is they are usually positioned much too high especially for those, like myositis patients, who have reduced strength in their arms or hands. A basic understanding of leverage and body mechanics shows that it is far better to PUSH than to PULL. Pulling is horrible on shoulder sockets, while pushing is not only better for your joints it is also a much more efficient use of energy. Pushing is easier because force is from the center of your body mass and you are assisted with your own core strength.

When you are in public facilities look for opportunities to push yourself to a standing position. Even your wheelchair may have sturdy surfaces to push your torso upward (just make sure the wheels are locked and stable!) While you likely can’t change the height of public grab bars, think carefully about their placement in your own home. A few inches lower may give you a much more comfortable and easy lift. Low countertops and heavy furniture could also give you the support to push yourself up from bed, tables, etc.

As with everything, we recommend you talk with professionals about how to maximize your space and how to safely move your body. Remember the Denver company, Accessible Systems (click here for website), can answer all your questions about home modifications. And speak with your physical therapist (check out our Local’s List page if you don’t have a PT guy/gal already) to figure out some tricks of the trade with your own body mechanics.

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2 thoughts on “push it

  1. Thanks for this excellent discussion and suggestions regarding the difficulty for people with myositis in using public restrooms! Also, it is very interesting to read the “Planning Guide for Accessible Restroom.”

    I am fortunate in that I can still “push” myself up from my power wheelchair onto my feet in order to to transfer over to the toilet. However, the top of the toilet seat is usually too low and the grab bars too high for me to push myself back up from the toilet. It is a real struggle for me. The difficulty, I think, is that most accessible restrooms are designed for people with weak legs and strong arms. My IBM is affecting the muscles in my arms at least as much as those in my legs. Therefore, I don’t have the arm strength to pull myself up from anything.

    • I thought the turning radius shown in the plans were interesting too. Obviously they are based on a standard wheelchair. I’m curious if that’s an issue for you, John. Since I imagine the turning radius of a motorized chair would have to be larger.

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