Why the Rehabilitation Profession Needs Disability Studies

Vocational rehabilitation was created to serve the needs of men injured in combat in the first and second World Wars and to serve the needs of men injured in industrial accidents. Except for the remarkable efforts of the National Colored Women’s Association, which created job training and housing for African-American women in the late 19th Century, there has never been a vocational rehabilitation system created to meet the cannabis needs of women. Not all men had their needs met either. For example, African-American combat veterans were not given the same benefits as their white counterparts.

Although vocational rehabilitation as a profession challenged the medical model in that it posited disability as a barrier to employment rather than as the end of employment, it never really succeeded in its mission. Indeed, it took the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 to bring the epic levels of unemployment of people with disabilities to national attention. The ADA, of course, would never have surfaced without a Disability Rights Movement. Although vocational rehabilitation professionals were allies in the passage of the ADA, they cannot be recorded as the leaders, the innovators in the movement toward quality lives for people with disabilities.

Even within the rehabilitation profession, the fact that the Disability Rights Movement emerged roughly at about the same time as the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Movement is rarely recalled, or even known. People with disabilities were closing down federal buildings, creating independent living centers, and protesting on college campuses. When women and minorities did the same thing, all sorts of things happened in higher education. Services for minority and women students emerged in equal opportunity programs and centers. Africana, Hispanic, and Women’s Studies emerged as new academic disciplines. The question is what happened to the logical emergence of Disability Studies? Why didn’t it follow along with the rest of the revolutionary pressures of the 1960s and 1970s?

My hypothesis is that just as the potentially revolutionary aspects of vocational rehabilitation were subsumed by the medical establishment, vocational rehabilitation suppressed the emergence of a revolutionary disability rights movement. In the 1960s and 1970s, the federal government offered stipends to graduate students in rehabilitation counseling programs. This had the deceptively benign effect of grabbing off the best and brightest people with disabilities and engulfing them in the profession of vocational rehabilitation, a profession beholden to the medical/legal establishment.

The medical model creates disability as disaster, as something to be fixed – no matter the cost to the person involved – as a thing to be conquered. For this reason, vocational rehabilitation with its roots deeply embedded in workers’ compensation systems, state departments of rehabilitation services, Social Security, and the Veteran’s Administration can never be a force for change since there is too much to give up. Having persons with disabilities administer these programs gives them credibility and extends their longevity.

Without a Disability Rights Movement and Disability Studies in higher education, the experience of disability as seen through the lens of the person with the disability can never be understood or even explored. The person with the disability will always be seen as other and persons who happen to be women and/or members of a minority group will be further distanced as alien others.

And just as Women’s Studies is not the study of women’s reproductive organs, Disability Studies is not the study of medical/psychological/legal definitions of porno disability. Both subscribe to standpoint theory. That is, you cannot understand my experience unless you look at it from my point of view.

Finally, the rehabilitation profession needs Disability Studies to revitalize itself as a profession, as an academic discipline. Without Disability Studies, the field will never realize its potentially revolutionary power.

Motability penalty: do you have the car you need? Five Pounds a Week

It’s coming to that time again, time to start the search for my motability vehicle for another 3 year lease. Three years go by so quickly, yet again so slowly it creeps up on you before you know it.

Things have changed in three years, as with most people something small here and there, and before you know it you need a whole new set of rules to live by. I feel lucky that adaptations have never been an issue for me when driving, however AUTOMATIC is an issue.

I’ve had an automatic car to drive now for 25 years, what a boon since as my left leg is almost devoid of life, clutch control is somewhat of a problem. I have prepared as best I can for the onset of ageing but like us all I soldier on pretending nothing is any different than the week before.

Problems started when my ‘good’ right foot started to act up. I went to see my Doctor about the severe pain and then went for a consultancy only to told I was to experience more mobility problems.

My present mobility car is a hatch back. It is difficult to fit in either my wheelchair or my fold away electric scooter, without losing seating space. While I have five months before my car change I’ve always liked to give myself plenty of time to weigh up the options and make the right choice. My wife’s car is a saloon with a nice size boot, enough to accommodate the scooter or wheelchair so, I guess a saloon is the way to go.

I logged onto the mobility/motorbility web sites to check latest list and prices of hire cars. It would seem to me that I’m to be cash penalised for my inability to use my legs to drive a gear/clutch car – DUH!!

I am told I can get a 2 door or a nice 4 door saloon, I can also have 2/3/5 door hatchback – almost anything that most people including myself would be happy to have.

These cars are all no advance payment – great,

‘I’ll have a nice 4 door saloon please.’

‘Sorry Sir that’s £1400 advance payment please.’

‘What! £1400 why?’

‘You used the ‘AUTOMATIC’ word, Sir!’

I used the ‘AUTOMATIC’ word, sorry it’s not rocket science here? did I use a naughty word? Is this something I should know that hasn’t yet been invented DOH!

So I need an automatic with room to take my wheelchair/scooter and my family/friends, what can I get? (thinks) seems a good bet would be an MPV don’t make me laugh have you seen the price of them?

My choice eventually comes down to an (wait for it) MPV, “just” £749 advance payment.

Hell, what’s five pounds a week for 3yrs to pay an advance payment that would fit my requirements? Except I haven’t been saving £5 week for three years and I only have 5 months left… My wife works hard, I have only my benefits, so advance payments are a real penalty to my normal requirements on top of “All” my mobility payments going to the lease hire.

Am I the only disAbled driver with this problem I don’t think so..

What’s a guy supposed to do eh? I’d willingly take a nice inexpensive car that fit’s my requirements but with advance payments in the thousands what would you do?

The Motability Scheme was established to provide disabled people with safe, reliable and affordable cars. Cars account for 99% of the Scheme’s activities, with powered wheelchairs and scooters making up the balance.
When are the people in charge of these schemes going to understand that this should not be about shouting how the disAbled are being empowered and given the freedom to get around by them and how wonderful they are for providing this service, but get down to really getting the services we can use without any PENALTY!

I’m made to feel that I’m moaning because I’m the proverbial square peg trying to fit in the round hole that has so wonderfully been provided, how many others put up with something that really is not up to scratch because of the cost. Roll on winning the Lotto!

An Alternative to Wheelchairs – Buying A Foldaway Scoota

Wanting to be in control of my mobility instead of relying on others has lead me to seek a way to do this.

Starting some months ago I researched what would help me in my quest. I went to every Mobility shop web site I could find to see what was on offer.

I had no real criteria. What I wanted was a way around being pushed in a wheelchair or trying to go afar with an unwieldy heavy power chair. Next option was a power scooter, again too heavy & unwieldy. My 18yr old son hates pushing me in my wheel chair, I know he gets embarrassed when I try to get him to place me in position to see in shops & stores. I also get embarrassed trying to navigate a big power chair in tiny aisles & knocking into racks and shelving.

So what to do? Looking through pages and pages on web sites I had no joy, I’m not sure now how I came to find the solution I sought, it’s lost in mists and blurs of links and open browser windows.

FINALLY there was the answer I had spent all that time looking for \o/ – a neat and compact electric scooter that fits in the boot of your car. I read all the info, saw the limits & the advantages – this was for me.

My phone was in my hand before you could say scooter. I spoke to the man who had developed this product, he was a nice guy & went to a lot of trouble to explain everything about his scooter, trouble was it was still in development and not available to the public until the summer 2001. :-((
I was almost there. I resigned to wait and left my phone number, e-mail, fax, pager, mobile and NI number just to be sure he would contact me. ;-))

So now it’s June and nearly midsummer, no sign of my goal in site, so I e-mailed Mr scooter man for a progress report, no answer was the loud reply. A close friend knowing all about this little saga decided to do some research on their own, unbeknown to me a lot of e-mails went out and 1 reply came back – a brand new foldaway ‘Scoota’ was available on the market!

I phoned the shop straight away, and with the web site picture in front of me I asked the technical question – HOW MUCH? Just so happened that a special deal was on in order to promote the product. Having really checked the spec’s with the shop and knowing the limitations of what it should be used for, I placed my order.

Just my luck, a slight delay in the delivery due to H.M Customs, never mind, I waited this long 3 more days won’t kill me? Monday evening the ‘Scoota’ arrives! If I said dinky you would get the idea of how small and compact this machine is! I couldn’t believe my eyes, where’s the battery? I asked, (expecting a 12v car battery), two compact tandam batteries ran under the floor board – I was told.

Gob smacked, I took delivery.

I read the manual over dinner, nothing complicated all so easy. First things first, charge the batteries-(can’t go anywere without!) it took a few hours until green light glowed bright to show fully charged. Well it was bedtime so no TT race today.
Tuesday morning and my first thought was where can I charge off to on my ‘Scoota’, I didn’t have chance to find out, the best I managed was down the hall out onto the front path, turned around and back again, feeling like a circus clown driving with something so small. In fact it was the Saturday before my chance came to test the diddy ‘Scoota’.

Saturday. ‘Scoota’ placed in car boot, drive down to the promenade, unfold, leathers shining, helmet on, gloves on, white silk scarf flapping. Set variable speed control from ‘Snail’ to ‘Tortoise’, the moment of truth, turn key in ignition, slowly pull back on control.

The ‘Scoota’ took up the slack & was off at walking pace, I felt the wind on my face as I rolled along, this was what I had waited for all week.

It just so happened that the annual MC races where taking place along stretches of the promenade, spectators were walking along to watch the race, 100’s of large motor cycles made my ‘Scoota’ look like a foot rest compared to their large size.

As I rolled along next to big burly bikers decked in leather suits I could see the jealousy in their eyes as they double looked at my mode of transport and a wry smile came to their faces.

For my first time out I had enjoyed the day, I look forward to many more hassle free days out with my trusty steed.

Home modifications: accessible spaces and facilities

The following sites are great for finding information about the
American Disability Act (ADA) guidelines for your home or business.
It is extremely important  and beneficial when constructing a home or
building, for measurements to meet ADA requirements,
especially when a family member or employee is disabled.  Keep in
mind that that all of the measurements given, are the “minimum”
required.  Doorway and hallway widths will vary depending upon the
size of the individual and/or the width  of their wheelchair.

Key things to remember:
• Entry and exits should be barrier-free (eliminate stairs, use ramps, and keep threshold heights at a minimum).
• When building a ramp, remember that for every inch of vertical height you need  to have a foot length in ramp (For example:  18 inches of height requires a ramp of  18 feet in length).  Ramps need to have level landings at the bottom and top of every ramp.  If a ramp exceeds 30 feet in length, a landing needs to be made at the bottom/top connecting to the remaining ramp length.
• Flooring in the home should be flat and smooth to ease mobility in a wheelchair (wood, tile, linoleum, and commercial are good suggestions).
• Hallways should be wide enough to allow an individual in a wheelchair to turn around with ease of needed.
HINT:  If it is not possible to make your entire home wheelchair accessible,
make the pathway between bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, family room,
and at least one entrance/exit into your home accessible.

Home modifications and family tips

This bathroom was built large enough to accommodate movement of a large wheelchair.
Lower towel racks and a roll-to sink make it much easier to use for an individual with disabilities.

Use a lawn chair in the shower or tub (with plastic webbing and arms) to assist caregiver with the person’s bathing.
Penny- Omaha, NE 19 year old multi-handicapped twin women

A pocket-door is helpful in the bathroom.
Donna P.- Omaha, NE 21 year old son with Cerebral Palsy

A shower seat that folds up against the wall is helpful for a bathroom that is shared with non-disabled person. (see picture “Fold out shower chair”)
Donna P.- Omaha, NE 21 year old son with Cerebral Palsy

Install a fiberglass shower stall that has the grab-bars molded into the wall rather than having to install grab-bars on one’s own.
Donna P.- Omaha, NE 21 year old son with Cerebral Palsy

Install a “governor” (a device that maintains a safe temperature range) onto the plumbing of your sink and shower to mix the hot and cold waters together to prevent injury. This will also help in curtailing injuries to the legs when a person “wheels” up to the sink and touches a too hot pipe.
Tom Q.- Omaha, NE 18 year old woman with Cerebral Palsy

Install a double showerhead unit into the shower to ease the person in self-bathing. Otherwise, use the single showerhead unit but with extension tubing and two holders placed at different heights.
Tom Q.- Omaha, NE 18 year old woman with Cerebral Palsy

This bathroom was built large enough to accommodate movement of a large wheelchair.
Lower towel racks and a roll-to sink make it much easier to use for an individual with disabilities.
A wheelchair friendly bedroom is set up with ample room to maneuver around.
The room is set up so that everything can be accessed from the middle of the room.

The window seat in the rear provides a great place to go when the person wants to take a break from their wheelchair.

Use egg crate foam on top of mattresses to soften the bed and allow for pressure relief.
Penny- Omaha, NE 19 year old multi-handicapped twin woman

Place glow-in-the-dark stars or other objects on the ceiling or walls for nighttime stimulation when the person cannot sleep.
Penny- Omaha, NE 19 year old multi-handicapped twin women

Place pictures or posters on the ceiling of person’s room for visual stimulation while lying in bed.
Penny- Omaha, NE 19 year old multi-handicapped twin women

Add a grab bar inside the closet (i.e. using PVC pipe secured onto two 2×4’s on the door frame) for the person to hold onto while pulling clothes off the hanger. Using PVC pipe will allow the bar to “grow” in height/length as the person grows.
Tom Q.- Omaha, NE 18 year old woman with Cerebral Palsy

Many times those of us who are not in wheelchairs do not recognize the many things we take for granted.
This photo illustrates how special arrangements were made to lower the windows so the person with disabilities could see out of the window, too.

Notice the hand controls (crank) for the window are at the bottom of the window where the person can reach them.

Providing a person with control over their environment is an important aspect of empowerment.

Use egg crate foam on top of mattresses to soften the bed and allow for pressure relief.
Penny- Omaha, NE 19 year old multi-handicapped twin women

Place glow-in-the-dark stars or other objects on the ceiling or walls for nighttime stimulation when the person cannot sleep.
Penny- Omaha, NE 19 year old multi-handicapped twin women

Place or posters on the ceiling of person’s room for visual stimulation while lying in bed.
Penny- Omaha, NE 19 year old multi-handicapped twin women

Add a grab bar inside the closet (i.e. using PVC pipe secured onto two 2×4’s on the door frame) for the person to hold onto while pulling clothes off the hanger. Using PVC pipe will allow the bar to “grow” in height/length as the person grows.
Tom Q.- Omaha, NE 18 year old woman with Cerebral Palsy