Today January 1st 2013 at 2am, Mel left our home by herself for the first time.
Why is this a meaningful memory, a moment in time, in which I am celebrating an achievement? We have an incline that leads from the front door to the front sidewalk, we have two doors in the front. One a typical door and then a clear glass screen that allows light in when the days are warm. We also have a three-inch lip. And finally we have a half-inch strip that seals the door with the entry floor.
I have struggled and struggled with the set up of our front door. Independence is all about leaving the home. Leaving the home to get in your car, leaving the home to go with a friend, leaving the home to get the mail. The front door has obstacles that made this simple movement difficult for Mel and those who visited her who used a wheelchair.
My initial strategy was to buy a ramp. I went on-line and purchased a simple ramp to put by the door to allow her to come in and out. It was made of metal with a non skid material applied to prevent slipping. The ramp was made of metal. Oh yes, we live in Texas and in Texas it gets hot. Hot Metal and bare feet do not mix. Ouch! The second problem was the ramp was not the same height as the door lip. It was almost one inch to short. ADA rules mean ramps have a certain height to length ratio. I needed a tall, short ramp. I added blocks of wood to make up the difference. The result was a ramp that was safe yet a little unstable. The ramp provided yet another bump for Mel to hitch over. Mel disliked the feel, I disliked the look. The ramp was moved to the back door which had a shorter lip. It was covered with a large door mat to prevent scalding bare feet.
My second strategy was to have a concrete ramp poured. As the garage door was our primary exit, that area was ramped first. The cost and the look inhibited our desire to ramp the front door.
As time went by, I shifted my thought processes. Every time we visited a home, the front door contained obstacles. If Mel could learn to overcome our front door, she would be better prepared, in life, to overcome other front door obstacles.
That brings us to 2012. Mel, at 16, had yet to come and go from our home by herself. We had broken down the steps. She was leaving our home with a parent standing behind her. She turns backwards, leans forward and propels the chair backwards down the bumps. She had yet to have the confidence or motivation to complete this task by herself.
December 31st, 2012 Mel is invited to a friend’s home down the street for a New Years Eve Party. 7pm. I walk her down to help her negotiate the curbs. Out of our home-stand behind for safety, hitch her up the curb at the cross street. (The curb cut is 10 yards down the street). Hitch her up the neighbor’s door lip and then I return home. Midnight, Mel texts, she wants to spend the night. Permission is given. Mel has not taken any medical supplies with her. She needs to come home for a moment to take out her contacts and complete a short medical, restroom routine. Her friend has accompanied her on the trip home before so I do not worry.
January 1st, 2013. I hear the sprinklers start and reach for my phone to warn and suggest a 10 minute wait. I hear squeals and laughter as my child and her friend are caught in the cold water of the sprinkler. I open the door and quickly pull on Mel’s front chair bars to get her in the home. Fifteen minutes later, Mel leaves the home on her own. No adult behind her for security. I ask if she wants my help and hear, “NO, I have made it out of Lindsey’s home and down 2 curbs already. I’m SMILING. One small step for Mel; one large step towards overall independence.