Rolling Without Limits

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Flooring Debate Leads to Wheelchair Education Lesson.
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Flooring Debate Leads to Wheelchair Education Lesson.

Hello there. This is my first post. I have a lot of interests related to disability and accessibility, but an interesting issue has come up in my apartment. This requires some back story so bear with me please.

My wife and I live in a two-bedroom apartment which is spacious and meets all of our needs. However, a few months back, we noticed that the plastic strip on the carpet that connects it to the Pergo flooring was coming undone in certain spots around our living room. It wasn't to annoying at first, but I was afraid of stepping on the carpet tacks. My wife's wheelchair (electric) was cracking the plastic strip. We called in a maintenance order and somebody came out and removed the plastic strip from all around the edge of the carpet. There was nothing holding the carpet in place because nobody was quite sure what to do with it. The head of our maintenance department had suggested that they might put in Pergo flooring throughout the living room and master bedroom. We didn't really think much of it until the wheelchair got caught on the carpet and move the entire thing. Because there were no reinforcements, the carpet began to develop pockets. This proved to be rather frustrating as now there was only one way for my wife to go around our center counter island.

Anyway, we called a second maintenance order because this was going to be a trip hazard. The idea of putting in plank flooring was again discussed, but at this time the real issue was putting something down so that the carpet would stay. This was done yesterday when two men came and put a plastic threshold down in a matter of half an hour. This means that the carpet is secured now. Seems like a good fix, right? No. The apartment people want to still put the plank down in the living room, the master bedroom, and the hallway to our master bath. Why? I think they think that it's somehow better for my wife's chair. We talked about this awhile back and I thought I'd write about it. It's interesting that a lot of construction people have this view that wheelchairs are "rough on carpet." True, if she were in a manual, she would have a lot more trouble getting around. As it is, pushing the joystick doesn't really require exertion; it also doesn't make an impact on the carpet. I just think it's odd, really odd, what people think a wheelchair does. It's not a tank (well, unless it's one of those ATV chairs), it's just a purmobile that doesn't go to the ground. In short, i haven't figured out why they still want to put the plank flooring in.

Yes, it will be smoother and there won't be need for a transition from the Purgo kitchen, but again, it's not as if this chair is dainty and light either. Ok, it may not seem like much, but those little nuances of understanding and education are important to me. People have misconceptions, just like any other human trait that eventually results in a stereotype. We will most likely tell them we don't want the plank. Oh, I forgot to mention that they were going to leave my bedroom/office/recording desk alone. So tell me, if you went into an apartment and were told that the whole thing had planks but one bedroom was carpet, wouldn't that make you feel weird? Or maybe it's just our neurotic tendencies.

So the whole reason I'm posting this, if you've decided to go with me this far, is just to wonder at where these assumptions of "ease of use" are founded. Think about it, if they were to put in plank floor, we would have to move all of our things out of the master bedroom where we have them in some sort of ordered chaos. So it may be somehow convenient for them, but it would be a pain to have to put all that stuff back. They offered to help, the maintenance crew, which is nice and all but it wouldn't be the same as we have it now.

This is partially cathartic and partially to try and understand why people come up with the strange conclusions they do about accessibility. I'm blind, someone once suggested I have a light timer on my wall to go on when it got dark. That was great until the timer stopped working and I never knew it. So again, good intentions, but.... You get the idea.

Thanks for reading. I write long digressive posts like this a lot. But I have a lot of experience with adaptations and adaptive strategies and I want to share them.

Image credit: CEFutcher

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  1. Artist on Wheels
    Artist on Wheels
    I really enjoyed your post, and being both an electric and manual wheelchair user, living with carpet, I'd like to add my two cents. When we had our house designed, it was in the beginning years of my wheelchair use. We had carpet put in. I will tell you that what happens with carpet when using an electric chair on it, eventually, because of the turning and twisting, motions, eventually it gets stretched out, creating lumps in certain areas, which then become places for tripping. We had to have our carpet stretched, so as to avoid the little mountains of carpet that had gathered in certain areas. During this time, the friend of ours who did the stretching, and was a carpet layer by trade, gave us the skinny on what to do for wheelchair users and carpet. He told us to have an industrial grade carpet put in without padding underneath. Thus, it would be easier for traveling on, no matter which wheelchair I'm in, and the stretching wouldn't happen, because there would not be the padding beneath the carpet. This kind of carpet also makes it easier for people in chairs to make transfers, as with pergo or plank flooring, if they have to put their feet on the ground there's the issue of slipping. Just some thoughts and info.
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