Sharing the Dream

I have a dream. It started small, with the idea of teaching other women with disabilities how to get their doctor to adapt to their needs, to make certain that they have proper medical care and it grew. A part of this is the rumor that in California there are accessible facilities for medical care. This access should be for all women and men with disabilities as well as those who are aging. A second portion is a discussion I recently spent two weeks taking part in. The third part is my own experience and the frustration that is omnipresent with my current medical needs.

I am sharing this dream with you for two reasons. The first is that I want your input. I am not an expert on all disabilities and I want to make this dream a reality. The other is that this will be my platform when I make my run for Ms Wheelchair USA. So, here it is, my dream.

I want to create not just an accessible doctor’s office but an accessible facility that has several purposes. First and foremost I want an accessible mammogram, one where you do not have to call, beg, and push to get access but where it is expected that you will need access. This will be furthered by a program to teach you how to adapt to your bodily changes and limitations while being able to fulfill the self exam for breast health. If you cannot adapt, either due to paralysis or other limitations then I want to offer the option of having a doctor or nurse perform your exam for you. Breast cancer risk does not magically vanish the minute you are suddenly disabled. It often goes up!

This goes further, I want accessible exam tables and facilities to offer every woman regardless of function and mobility a pap smear. I have an annual cancer scare, something tries to trick us into thinking it is cancer yearly. This year’s cancer scare surrounds my pap and it’s abnormal results and other tests that scream, “You might have cancer!” I am more worried about the high table, embarrassing lack of hospital gowns that actually fit, and my physical issues hampering the test than the actual possibility of cancer. I am loathing the idea of half climbing half being shoved up on that table, half naked and without any chance at privacy because I need help at times to even move my hips. There are accessible tables. Other forms of accesibility will be needed. I want to hear from any persons of short stature, what are the needs you face in the doctor’s office that are not being met? Even the most accessible table for a tall person will fail you, so please tell me what you need so that you are not excluded from my dream.

I want accessible facilities for rape victims with either severe injuries due to the actual rape or a previous disability. Writing these words has me panting with fear, but, how many women could be protected with evidence that is not obtained? There is enough of a violation with in rape itself, but being violated and treated like you do not matter after is a crime as well. This alone could be my platform focus, this alone could impact the lives of countless women. Accessible rape kit access with proper training for those taking the kit is a must. this is the part of my dream that is frightening, this is the part of my dream that feels the most out of reach. I must reach this goal however, for every victim and survivor that exists now or may exist.

I also want a center for adaptation. The Center for Adaptation would include a kitchen, a bathroom, and other areas that the once-abled take for granted. I still have not managed to cook a meal without harming myself in years, but a place where I had the safety to learn without being in danger of literally killing myself would help. This adaptation center must include potential assistive devices so that before the money is spent by the individual they know if the device will work. I wasted so much money on items that I cannot even use. Everyone does. Most persons with disabilities or freshly disabled persons have a very limited income, therefore this is a key component to creating universal access. Imagine learning how to cook around your limited energy, ability, and strength? Imagine learning how to clean again, and imagine too learning other things such as crafts, or finding ways to adapt so that you can create art? Dream with me and see it, a place of learning for all levels of ability.

Not just learning but socialization. I want people of all ability levels to commune together. There need to be varying support groups, socialization groups, and even a place to coordinate activities for the single individual and the couples. There needs to be a safe place to discuss sex with in ability, there needs to be a safe place where intersetion occurs. If you are gay, bisexual, a lesbian, or a transgendered person with a disability you deserve this just as much as someone who does not overlap two subgroups with in the realm of minority. The able bodied need to be welcomed here too, so that they can learn, assist, and so that there is a lack of segregation.

There needs too, to be a place to work with Service Animals. This facet will have to have answers to questions about the legalities of service animals in the given area, certification challenges, and training suggestions. Although it will not be a place to get a service dog, there needs to be a place where safe support can be found easily. Safe support that can come and help you advocate, safe support that teaches you to self advocate, and safe support for the process of accepting your animal partner.

Less medicalization of life needs to happen, and the focus on that aspect is a place to find good fashion, perhaps this could even become the funding source for my facility. The fashion needs to be adaptable to the wheelchair users needs, most likely this will require custom tailoring. The clothing needs to be affordable but also fashionable. Persons who have disabilities cover all age groups and the institutionalization of clothing is unacceptable. The clothing must also be in a broad range of sizes. Just as wheelchairs need to fit everyone from the small child up to the very large adults, the clothing must as well. Giving a place to access good, quality, stylish clothing for men and women with varying abilities will be a huge part of this, simply out of my own desires. I desire affordable clothing that works with my ability. I do not want to trip over skirts that are too long, I do not want to have my sleeves caught in my wheels if I use a manual chair, and I am presuming this is a universal frustration.

There need to be classes as well to train those with degenerative conditions to adapt, or those with compound disabilities to adapt. Perhaps the adaptation center is a new spin on the idea of an accessible home to learn in, yet, the focus on this portion includes teaching skills you might not have. What brought this to mind is my own degeneration. I lost my ability to walk and my sight is endangered. What adaptation can I have if I cannot see to drive my chair? I must learn and there needs to be a safe place for this. There needs to be a place where it is safe to feel the fear, the hope, and a place where there is hope. There is too little hope for the disabled demographic in this world.

A part of preventative care is dentistry, though I have yet to find a dentist who can work with my limitations. There needs to be a facility for dental care. I have a cavity I cannot get tended due to my combination of allergies and inability to bend backwards in their chairs. This cannot be. This is discrimination, yet to stamp out discrimination there needs to be action. If the facility cannot have a dentist, then it needs to have an office where accessible vision and dental care is listed, where referrals can be given, and it needs to be a place where there is acceptance that every body has a different need.

Disaster Safety is also a concern. During the disasters that hit the world, such as Hurricane Katrina, the disabled are often left behind. Their families may stay so that their loved ones do not die alone, and therefore these devalued people are murdered. It is murder to leave someone behind because it might be hard to deal with their wheelchair. A part of this facility needs to house a program that teaches people how to advocate, adapt, and prepare for emergencies. This program also needs to teach FEMA and other rescue organizations how to rescue the disabled. We are people, we deserve life, and being abandoned because of a wheelchair or cognitive disability is murder. It can be helped, it can be changed.

A lot of the focus here is on prevention and adaptation. My focus is not to cure disability, to wipe it out. That is impossible and I have gained from my own limitations. I cannot imagine a world without Autism as being beautiful, for without it I would not exist. Therefore the focus needs to be on preventative medicine, there needs to be a focus with in the facility on adaptive medicine, and there needs to be a focus on demedicalizing the bodies that have limitations. There needs to be a personalization of existence. I exist beyond my disabilities, though they are a part of me. We need to foster acceptance of self, of difference, and we need to offer a safe harbor for all people with all abilities to commune.

A lot of people are unable to work, are fighting for government assistance, and are dying without durable medical equipment. I want to offer rentals, loaners, and at times even the purchase of needed medical equipment such as CPAP machines, wheelchairs, and walkers. These are just examples. There would be a qualification process, and yet the freedom I felt that first time I sat in a manual chair and had more than three hours of coherent function haunts me. I have nightmares of being trapped without my chair now, I have nightmares that others feel that same terror. Those nightmares are realities. This program could use older equipment that was donated, purchased equipment, and could perhaps eventually include low interest/zero interest loans with minimal payments to allow people to obtain equipment. This could help those with a copay and a minuscule income to make ends meet. This could help someone who is choosing between homelessness and a wheelchair to get the chair and keep their home.

A second facet on employment is access to workforce training. There are already facilities yet at times access is denied based on a lack of visible potential, so, I want to coordinate with them to try and educate and prepare those who want to work but are being told they aren’t worth the training. An entire segment of this facility needs to be coordination with existing organizations to get people what they need, to get people connected with the programs that exist. A lot of people who ask me for help do so because they cannot find programs that fit their needs, even when they exist. A hub in the network could make their impact broader, while in a way delegating some of my dream over to their offices. I know one facility cannot possibly do it all.

This is my dream, this is also why I was so quiet this past week. I was dreaming, trying to put into a coherent idea what is needed. This facility will need funding but the insured can be charged. I do not see this as a fee free environment but money should not cause a person to not be able to participate. If a person can pay, or if their insurance can allow coverage then they should pay. Much of what is offered should be covered under Medicaid/Medicare and other insurances without issue. The rest could be funded via donations and grants. I have no idea what I would call this facility yet, but, that is not the most important focus at this time. Branding must come after a plan for action is laid out.

Share the dream. Share what you see as a need. Please feel free to pass links to this post around, I want to offer a taste of freedom to a set of people that anyone can join, to the only equal opportunity minority. If we band together, we can change the world and create universal access. This plan is flawed, this dream is imperfect yet it is merely a start.

Diagnosis! Gotta Catch’em all!

I am in an emotional upheaval. I found out today that Block Insurance does not have any non Walmart Eye doctors. All of the numbers they gave me were between disconnected or offices without actual vision care professionals. I also was told to choose between Walmart and Eye Masters which is the Walmart of eye care. Would you go to Walmart for diagnosis and treatment of anything medical? I won’t. I want options. I want to see a doctor I trust, not Mr. Walmart Doctor.

I spent several hours on hold, trying to get an appointment. My right eye has an existing hole in the retinae, but no one wants to treat it. Now that hole has some little friends. I can see them, the spots grow and most of my vision is gone in that eye. I can barely see my monitor, and am defendant on the Windows built in Magnifier to see. I no longer read paper, I can’t see it. I no longer watch TV. I listen to it. I did reach the point of yelling on the phone.

The conversations were comically inept. “Thank you for Calling Block Vision, what can I do for you today?” “Yes, I am calling to try and find a provider. I …” Interrupting me, “Did you use the automated system?” “Yes, and the numbers were either invalid or the offices wanted to charge me despite my qualifying for zero copay. I also am not comfortable with Walmart for my eyecare needs. I have some advanced care issues.” I made a mistake. I admitted I need more than they want to offer.

“Spell your name.” I did. “You can’t spell your name like that.” Since it is my name and has been for a long time, I would not know how to spell my legal name. My last name is the issue of course, not the first. I spell it again, and get the same response. I am done. I want to make this person cry, I want to rain fire down upon them. Instead I take a deep breath. “Could you please transfer me to someone else?” I did not ask for a supervisor yet. “If you cannot calm down I am goin to hang up on you.” “I am calm, I just asked for you to transfer me to someone else, I do not think we are communicating well.”

She hung up. I kept getting the same person too, and after six calls I let go. I was already in tears so I screamed. I cussed. I told her exactly how good she was at her job, and since they claim to record these conversations, I hoped her bosses listened in and fired her. Not my best move, but, being treated like crap gets to me. The last thing I want is to be blind, unable to move, and unable to hear. I am being told that all that I and anyone else who is on Medicaid (mostly children) deserve is WALMART?!

Walmart screws up everything. I want a real doctor. Not some brainless person who barely managed to graduate. I want someone I can put my faith in. Wouldn’t a real doctor be hired somewhere else? I am not saying that every doctor gets the cushy jobs but I want access to the doctor of my choice or at least a variety. I do not want to be told I am insane for desiring trust with my medical professionals. I do not want to be told I have to pay out of pocket because I am low income and have other medical issues. I want medical care.

I want to see. I miss being able to see the faces of my friends clearly. I miss being able to see far enough to give safe directions. I do not drive but, shouldn’t I be able to see the end of the hood? A van doesn’t have a very long hood. I also want to do more than push and push to try and get proper care. I am so tired. I am tired of having to advocate. I have been advocating for people and fighting my entire life. I have always been the caregiver. I want someone else to do it.

This doesn’t work however. I can’t just stop advocating. I can’t because I do not know how. I instead took the time to calm down enough to call the Governor. I left him a voicemail along the lines of this, “Governor Richardson, I am a voter who encourages others to vote, “I always start out with the secret threat that if you do not help me I will not vote for you. “I have been trying to find an eye care provider.I recieve SSI benefits and am on Medicaid via the COOLTS program. You have influence here, the program has farmed out their providership for vision care to Block Vision. Block Vision is only allowing a selection from Walmart and Eyemasters doctors, I cannot get an appointment with them and my vision is degenerating. I need your help to fight for your constituents.” I left my number, and I know I should have been calmer but my voice likely gives away my frustration and the fact that I have been crying for the last few hours.

I cannot see. I am thankfully able to type with my eyes closed but there are errors. What if I wait too long to see someone and wind up unable to save my sight? I am not faithful in the system. Right now I am afraid I will be deaf, blind, immobile, dealing with the Autism, and autoimmune. I have one of every type of disability, it seems. I am losing hope today.

If I want to pay for my eye care out of pocket, I can manage that how? They want more money than I get a month. Why are we choosing between Rent, Medicine, or Dental/Eyecare? Why is it you can eat but not see. Oh wait, I can’t afford food. I am a celiac. Silly me. Bread is at least seven dollars. I don’t buy bread. I don’t buy anything beyond just enough meat to survive. I am HUNGRY but there are no food programs that can accommodate my allergies. I am greedy to want that right? I am greedy to want someone to help me. I am greedy to want a break from advocacy. Right?

No matter how many other advocates there are, I feel alone. I feel as if there is no where to turn. I have to do this alone. I have to do this by myself. Who can I ask for help? What would they suggest that I have not done? I am all alone, as every advocate is at some level. There is only so much you can have someone else do for you.

It isn’t hopeless. I am after the jobs of the employees who hurt me today. That means someone else can be hired if they are fired for their incompetence. This might seem cruel, but, isn’t it just as cruel to mock someone for wanting medical care? It is just as cruel to treat someone like garbage because they are disabled. I have HUMAN rights. I have CIVIL rights. You want to mess with me? Go ahead. I bite.

Edit and End Notes:
I do not care what your God or Bible says about being alone either. I have been preached at, as if somehow my choice to not pray every time some idiot steps on my civil rights is my fault for being a non believer. I do not believe religion has much bearing on the affairs of the state. So, yes, this is a snarly article, and yes I admit I messed up by yelling and plan to keep fighting but leave your god out of my life. I haven’t needed your god to chance things for myself before, I will not need YOUR god now. Thanks for respecting my religion.

It is not religion that is shared when you ask an opinion or vent to me. I offer ideas. I do not expect you to worship me, my gods, nor is this the same as pointing out that I surely would feel better with YOUR God receiving my prayers. Seriously, are your gods somehow starving to death or something? I know plenty of people in those religions who are. So keep religion out of it. You won’t find my religious identity posted clearly anywhere.

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