Monday, October 19, 2009

One Man's Annoying/Aggravating/Interesting Access Picture of the Week

Oddly enough, this week’s pictures come from none other than my own parent’s home in Eau Claire. What you’re looking at specifically (further below) is the ramp hallway that goes from my room to the garage, at some point dubbed “the tunnel.” After my diving accident my parents added on a wing to our house that became my new, fully accessible bedroom, which included a private bathroom, a small office area, my own accessible doorway to our back deck, and that ramp.

Since at the time of my accident my room was in the basement, gaining near full accessibility downstairs would have meant cutting some nasty hole into the upper level floor somewhere to install an elevator, putting in much less aesthetically pleasing, dense industrial carpet that’s easy to roll over, and completely gutting parts of my room, our storeroom, and the bathroom to make it all work. In retrospect we clearly made the right decision.

The ramp itself runs the length of the backside of our garage and comes out into a separate garage that was also added on for my near-exclusive use. Clearly, it all made my ability to come and go pretty seamless. Not to mention private and quiet from my parent’s ears on nights that I came home late.

Between 2003, when I moved out of the house to start law school, and now the ramp has taken on bit of a new life of its own in three respects. First, in December of 2003 my parents got two cats and they love spending time out there. It gives them about a half dozen windows at their height to look out into the side yard and a warm sunny place to nap. It’s not an uncommon sight to see them clawing at the door to be let out there.

Second, it’s becoming an intriguing playroom for my niece and nephew, 2.5 and 1.5 years old, respectively. They just love simply running up and down the ramp for two reasons that I can figure: 1) little kids just love ramps for some reason, they go nuts for my van ramp too, and 2) the ramp was built on a triangular box and the floor is hollow under the plywood, so every step they take sort of makes a hollow thud noise they love hearing. And starting this past winter my nephew goes nuts for watering the plants out there. I assume that my niece will see that and want to join in soon as well. Which leads me to...

Third, and coming back around to the point, over the last three winters my mom has stashed a lot of her outside potted plants in there. My room and ramp are heated with thermal heating via hot water coils in the floor and the ramp itself is kept at 45 degrees throughout the winter, so between the in-floor heat and outside light that beams through the windows my mom treats it as her de facto winter greenhouse for about four months.

Once she puts her plants in there it cuts the open ramp space down by about third. Technically I think I only need about half the ramp space so that's fine, but it plays tricks with my mind because I don't want to damage the plants. That said, I make my ingress and egress a little bit slower because I want to be extra conscious of not driving over leaves and vines while also not over compensating by running into the wall. I usually rake the back of one of my hands or stick out my elbows like a rudder to run along the wall as I go so I know not to move over any farther than is necessary.

But this year my mom must have been hitting the Miracle Gro extra hard because all the plants are especially extra poofy. I still have enough room on the whole but I’m afraid that I might do some pretty decent damage to her precious plants by the time the ground freeze period is over next April, which would make me feel bad. “Just smash them down, who cares?” she told me Friday night when I paused after I turned the corner and saw that I was dealing with a much wilder kingdom than I had in the past. Easier said than done. I tried that same thing last year and my front wheels flipped over a plant pot in front of me and I got stuck for about ten minutes. I couldn’t back up because one of our cats wouldn’t move and I had a basket on my lap so I couldn’t bend down and smack the plant aside. I could have just driven over it I suppose but I try to defer to them as much as I can since I think some of those things predate me.

Did I mention that the tunnel is so well insulated because of residential disability fireproofing laws that it’s virtually soundproof? It’s a good thing when I’ve come home from the bars, etc. with some rowdy friends, not so much when you’re trying to yell for help. After wondering where I went my mom finally emerged and said, “What are you doing?” I said, “I tipped over one of the plants and it blocked my path.”

I love my mom with all my heart and it's only in good clean fun that I call her out on my blog a little. Truth is that it's only a little annoying, and even mostly creatively cute that she uses that space for the plants. After all, I'm not there too much in the winter anyway. And she always goes out of her way to move plants around so that I can get in and out as easily as possible. My personal accessibility has always been at the forefront of my parent's thinking. I just thought this would be a fun departure from my other documented access issues.

For the record, she wanted me to very clearly point out that she’s a plant lover and doesn’t want plants she’s had for years to die in the cold, and also that she deserves a pass because she’s doing her small part to oxygenate the planet. So because it is my mom let's just file this post much more under interesting, and maybe a little bit annoying, but definitely not aggravating by any means whatsoever.

So here’s to another winter of somewhat begrudgingly sharing my tunnel ramp with a crap load of plants, extra hallway oxygenation, and that robust, closed space, clingy earthy stink that almost makes you want to wash your hands and face by the time you’ve run the plant gauntlet.


  1. None of my plants are "poofy." Maybe I should bring them to EC for some TLC and a space in the hallway ramp, too.

  2. Shhh, please don't go putting any ideas into my mom's head. As you can see, she can get pretty creative about how many plants get crammed in there as it is. But yeah, there definitely appears to be something magical about that hallway that fosters overall plant lushness.

  3. I've really enjoyed your blog. A great perspective on the challenges that you face. A lot of which, sadly I wouldn't think about. So you've done a good job of making me more aware. And you're a great writer. Glad to be in touch again.

  4. That's very nice of you to say, I greatly appreciate it. Thanks for following along...