I can’t say I’ve ever met anyone who enjoys the chore of doing the laundry. While it can be a difficult or time-consuming task for anyone, having a disability can make laundry day nothing short of exhausting. If you have a mobility disability or chronic pain like I do, then you probably wish getting clean clothes wouldn’t always have to be such a monumental task.
Think about it: just one load of laundry requires several physically demanding steps. This likely means that it’s either challenging to do your laundry independently, or that you can do it independently but it’s quite the affair, at least in my experience. Once you get the heavy basket of clothes to the washing machine, you might have to bend to unload the basket into the machine, and reach high to put in soap and turn the machine on. Then, taking the clothes out of the washing machine and getting them into the dryer can be tough because sometimes socks get stuck at the back of the machine, or you might drop a shirt on the floor. The same things can happen when you’re trying to unload the dryer, too.
In order to make it easier to do a load of laundry, I’ve got a few tricks to adapt the process, all of which I learned thanks to my mother, who has years of laundry experience and also has the same physical disability as me. To help avoid too much bending, we always keep a reaching stick handy in our laundry room. This way, if we drop something or can’t quite reach the last pair of underwear at the bottom of the hamper, the reaching stick can do the work for us.
After getting the clothes into the washing machine, the next challenge for me is handling the detergent. Detergent bottles are often heavy and unwieldy, and it can be a challenge for me to reach the little drawer where the soap goes. So, I use Purex Complete 3-in-1 Laundry Sheets. My mother and I discovered these gems when I was in college because I needed an easy way to do laundry on campus. The Purex sheets can be placed directly in the washing machine because they contain detergent that completely dissolves in the water while cleaning your clothes. Then, you can simply transfer the sheet to the dryer because it also functions as a dryer sheet with fabric softener. Brilliant!
Once my load of wash is finished, I don’t have to carry a basket across my house. Instead, my mom had the brilliant idea to get a laundry trolley. It’s essentially a basket on wheels that you can push like a lightweight baby stroller, and it’s awesome. Plus, the basket is easily removable from the cart, though I prefer keeping the basket in the cart because it’s at a good height for me to reach.
Of course, even with all these simple ways to make doing my laundry easier, there’s no avoiding the fact that everything has to be folded – unless you’re a fan of the throw-it-in-the-drawers approach. (Hey, no judgment!) But with the right tools to get the laundry done, you’ll have more energy saved for tackling perfectly folded clothes!
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.