by Emily Ladau
I love a good adventure as much as the next person, but it can often be a bit challenging to transfer from my wheelchair into a car. My family has a vehicle adapted so I can get inside, but sometimes I just want to take a drive with my friends. Since it took me longer to get my driver’s license than most of my peers and I’m still working on getting a vehicle with the equipment I need to drive, my current options for transportation when going out are either to be driven by my father or to be picked up by a friend. While I’m thankful that my friends are always up for letting me hitch a ride, transferring to the passenger seat used to be a two person acrobatic performance.
Being that I’m fairly independent, I’m not a huge fan of asking for assistance to wiggle into a car even though I know my friends don’t mind helping. So, in order to enjoy going out, I would let go of my pride and ask for a hand. I continued this slightly frustrating process until the fateful day that my mother was flipping through a catalog and discovered what has since become my new secret weapon for transfers.
What’s my secret? Believe it or not, it’s a bath step. The Drive Medical Portable Bath Step, to be exact. You’re probably wondering why I’m singing the praises of what seems like nothing more than a glorified step stool. It’s because the bath step is so much better and safer than a regular step stool. For example, it’s intended for use in a slippery environment. This means even when I’m out in the rain, I can get into a car with less risk of falling. Plus, the price is a bargain for something that makes my life easier and gives me a way to be more independent.
The one caveat is that since I only use one step, it only gives me enough height to transfer into cars, but not into vans or trucks. But, you can get more than one step since they’re stackable and lightweight, which could be a solution to that issue. Luckily, most of my friends have regular sedans.
My transfer process is pretty simple. I place the bath step on the ground in front of the ledge of the car. Then I roll my chair up as close as possible at an angle, put the brakes on, put my feet on the step, and spin around to sit on the ledge. From there, I pull myself up into the seat mostly with my upper body, but the four inches of extra height makes it much less of a struggle and gives me plenty of leverage. Most importantly, I love that I can do the transfer myself, so that it’s a one-acrobat process instead of two!
As an added bonus, the simple little bath step not only opens up possibilities for me to get in my friends’ cars, but also makes the process of getting into bed much easier for me when I’m exhausted at the end of an adventurous day. When I got a new bed a few years ago, it was much higher than my old one and posed a challenge for me to get on. So, I bought another step to keep on the side of my bed to give me a small but much needed height boost for transfers.
Who knew that independence could take the shape of a plastic step? It’s been such a freeing discovery. What are your transfer tricks?
Emily Ladau is a passionate disability rights advocate whose career began at the age of 10, when she appeared on several episodes of Sesame Street to educate children about her life with a physical disability. In the years that followed, Emily took on leadership roles in many advocacy initiatives. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in English from Adelphi University. Immediately after graduation, Emily was selected to participate in the prestigious American Association of People with Disabilities internship program based in Washington, D.C. Since completing her internship in August 2013, Emily has been both employed and volunteering with multiple organizations to foster employment opportunities and develop resources for the disability community, as well as to encourage people with all types of disabilities to develop their inner voice for advocacy.
Emily blogs at Words I Wheel By about her experiences as a disabled young adult, challenging people to consider all aspects of the disability experience in new ways. She loves forming new connections, and invites you to like Words I Wheel By on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @emily_ladau.