Wednesday, January 26, 2011

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

The picture itself isn’t all that interesting, but the story that goes with it is. First, the city painted off a new disability parking spot around a car that was already parked there, then they threatened to tow the car for being in violation of parking in a disability spot. Now I’m all about busting people parking illegally in accessible parking spaces, but in this instance a few people forgot to put their thinking caps on.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Apparently, I’m “Gettin’ It Done”

I have a hard time doing anything that comes across as me patting myself on the back, but in this rare instance it is worth noting that my friends at the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation just started a new column about people with spinal cord injuries who are "Gettin' It Done." I was one of the first four people featured, describing me as a good guy attorney and this blog as "useful and always entertaining." It was a cool surprise. My great thanks to the fine folks at the SSPF. You can check out the blurb at the following link:

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Quad Engineering: Making Mac & Cheese

The fact that I am taking the time to write a blog post about making Mac & Cheese makes me feel like I am twelve years old, yet at the same time the foregoing almost perfectly demonstrates a microcosm of my perpetual lack of even simple culinary skills on account of having paralyzed quadriplegic hands with no voluntary finger movement. Even at thirty-two years old, like any red blooded American, I can get some pretty mad hankerings for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese every now and again. I say Kraft brand Mac & Cheese because although my pallet has discriminated against the generic kinds less and less as I’ve gotten older, Kraft is still the best by far, and as much as possible that’s still the kind I’m eating.

But for the better part of a decade now I’ve been largely deprived of that good stuff because I haven’t been able to prepare it myself. The main culprit has always been the part of the preparation process that involves taking the pot with scalding hot water off the hot stove, moving it to the sink and pouring the hot contents it into a strainer, and then putting the hot pot and noodles back on the stove. It’s a key step that I haven’t been able to do on my own. If the sink is across the room from the stove, as was the case when I lived with my parents through college, then the only way I could strain the pot would be to carry it on my lap from one side of the room to the other. That’s not happening. Similarly, if the sink and stove share the same stretch of counter, as is the case in my current apartment, sliding the pot off the stove burner and down the counter to the sink still leaves my lap vulnerable to potential burns if the pot tips or water spills out. That aside, with very limited grasping ability the act of tilting the pot to dump out the water and noodles leaves my hands vulnerable to burns from the outer edge of the pot as well.

So making mac & cheese on my own has been a no go for over fourteen years. Instead, I’ve had to have family or PCAs do it for me, which has always felt very limiting. But all that changed a few months ago thanks to a little quad engineering. I was making something for dinner that involved scooping hot, wet food with a strainer spoon and suddenly it hit me that I could use that same spoon to scoop the mac & cheese noodles from the pot with the hot water to a second pot to finish the cooking process, thereby eliminating the need to move a hot pot of water over to the sink to strain the noodles. So I tried it and it worked pretty well, except for the highly tedious process of fishing noodles out of the pot with hot water spoonful by spoonful.

The second time I made it I used much less water to cook and soften the noodles so that made it a little bit less of a fight to fish the noodles out, but needing to use about twenty five total spoonfuls to transfer them all was still annoying. But I was actually making mac & cheese entirely on my own so I didn’t care. The third time I made it I couldn’t grab the big cooking pot out of the cabinet below my stove so I cut to the chase with the smaller pot I had been using just to mix the cheese, butter, and milk with the noodles in the second cooking phase. That pot was small enough to slide it safely across my counter from the burner to the sink, then I used the handle to tip the pot and pour out the hot water into my sink. Unlike my bigger cooking pot, which has two stubby hand holds on the sides, the longer handle on the smaller pot allows me to keep my hands away from the hot pot surface while I dump the water. Then I slid it back to the stove and finished the job. And that’s how I’ve been making mac & cheese ever since because it’s eliminated the strained spoon transfer step.

So just like that, with a little quad engineering making a meal that once seemed impossible to prepare on my own has suddenly become very routine. At the least, it’s been fun getting the chance to eat like a teenager much more often on my own terms. Next up: trying to figure out how to cook with the oven without burning myself. Then I’ll really start kicking some solo culinary ass.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New EasyStand Blog Guest Post: Like, Totally 80’s Music Video Based Disability Perspective

My latest guest post on the EasyStand Blog went live today. I turn an aspect of a classic 80's music video into a statement of my very unique "2-way mirror" disability/able-bodied life perspective on account of my SCI.

So please check it out: Like, Totally 80’s Music Video Based Disability Perspective.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve was pretty low key around the Dean pad this year. I planned to have a few people over but one’s flight got delayed until pretty late and didn’t end up coming by at all and the others decided to go out downtown Minneapolis instead. I had the option of joining them but I wasn’t interested in going very far. As I discussed in my last post, the Minneapolis area got hit with a ton of snow and it’s made parking and getting around via wheelchair difficult in certain places. On top of that the Twin Cities was getting hit with a frozen rain storm so driving around town wasn’t advisable. And all that aside, I wasn’t interested in going anywhere overcrowded anyway. I’ve gone out to bars on New Year’s Eve and dealt with crowds in the past and it’s hardly fun trying to move around in an asses to elbows environment.

I bring this up not to lament on the fact that I ended up flying solo on New Year’s Eve but to make it applicable to this interesting blog post I read last week about the New Year’s Eve dilemma for wheelchair users. It gets a little heavy on the guilt factor, but the premise is that wheelchair users are limited in which bars, clubs, house parties, etc. they can go to celebrate New Year’s Eve on account of a lack of accessibility of many places. So the dilemma is that the wheelchair user’s friends might want to go to the more fun locales but either feel held back because they have to account for the accessibility factor and/or feel guilty for ditching that friend to go to an inaccessible celebration spot. On the other hand, the wheelchair user gets sick of the same accessible haunts, can’t go to the inaccessible spots (or doesn’t feel like the extra effort of making it work), and/or may feel guilty holding their friends back from doing something more fun just so they can stay included in the group venture.

Like I said, it gets a bit heavy on the guilt factor, but it sheds light on a topic that all wheelchair users can relate to on some level. The last time I went out to the bars on New Year’s Eve the evening started out at a friend of a friend’s accessible apartment (with a wide open accessible bathroom) and then moved on to the bars. It was also a cold and snowy night with a lot of newly fallen snow on the ground. I tried unconvincingly to keep the house party going and skip the bars but got quickly overruled. Parking was a mess, crossing streets and rolling down the sidewalk got tricky with the snow, and I had to be lifted into a few bars that just had steps, which is something that I’m not crazy about when the people lifting me have been having more and more to drink as the night goes on. So in that case I tried to hold people back from the fun that they wanted to have, and then ultimately had less fun myself on account of all the extra hurdles I had to jump to celebrate with my friends.

So as much as I was disappointed that I didn’t end up having company on New Year’s Eve, taking all that above into consideration, having a few drinks to celebrate on my own didn’t end up being too bad a night after all.

Happy New Year everyone.