Stacy Ellingen

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Stacy’s Journal: The Repercussions of Change

2018-05-01
By: Stacy Ellingen
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As the saying goes, “if it works, don’t fix it.”   In today’s world, where it often seems like we’re trying to improve everything for one reason or another, that saying is frequently forgotten or ignored.  While it’s human nature for people to want to make things better, sometimes people forget to consider the repercussions of changing things will have on others.  Change is hard for everyone.  Due to a variety of reasons, people with disabilities often struggle with change.  Whether it be a change in a material good or a change in an essential service, changes affect all of us.

I’m the first to admit that I don’t do well with change.  I’m convinced a big reason for this is because I live such a scheduled life.  As I’ve shared in a previous entry, due to having drop-in cares, my whole day is scheduled—everything from the time I get up in the morning, to the times I use the restroom and eat meals, to the time I go to bed at night, everything has a set time.  When I’m out of my routine, my body often starts to react in weird ways.

Changes in material goods often have mixed effects on people with disabilities too.  Many times, when material things are improved or upgraded, it often makes life easier for everyone.  However, sometimes when things changed, people don’t realize how it will affect others.  Recently, I read an article online about how the United Kingdom is trying to ban disposable plastic straws because they’re not environmentally friendly.  The article explained why this wouldn’t be good for people with disabilities.  To the average person, this probably doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Why wouldn’t banning plastic straws have such a negative impact on people with disabilities?  For me, personally, being able to drink from a straw “independently” didn’t come easy.  For many years, I either had to drink directly from a cup (someone had to pour liquid directly into my mouth) or someone had to literally hold my lips closed on a straw so I could suck the liquid up.  I think it was nearly college before I was able to use a plastic bendable straw by myself (meaning I’m able to suck liquid through a straw without somebody having to hold my lips shut).  It’s much more socially appropriate to independently drink from a straw than to have somebody pour liquid into your mouth or having someone hold your lips shut on a straw.  Having said that, most hard reusable straws aren't feasible for me (I don't have the ability to get enough suction to get the liquid up with hard straws). Lots of hard straws aren’t bendable either which poses another problem.  Some people, like myself, have a hard time positioning himself/herself to access a regular stick straw; bendable disposable plastic straws are often easier to get at.  Paper straws often aren’t a realistic option for some people with disabilities either.  In my case, because of the way I latch onto the straw, I’d ruin a paper straw even being able to try to suck on it.  Many of my friends with cp have the same issues with straws.  While I’m all for being environmentally friendly, I’m not sure eliminating disposable plastic straws would do much good.

Advancements in technology have made a huge positive impact on lives of people with disabilities.  However, advancements sometimes bring on more challenges that people don’t often think about.  For example, flat screen TVs have become the norm.  While they save a lot of space and are neat, the one thing they normally don’t have are controls on the front of the TV.  Most people wouldn’t even think about this; however, for me, having to use a remote to control the TV presents some challenges.  Due to my fine motor limitations, I can’t just grab the remote and press a button to turn TV on.  In order for me to work a TV remote, it has to be on a hard surface (like a table) and aimed at the TV.  Depending on the setup, the remote often has to be velcroed to the table so it doesn’t fall off when I try to hit the buttons.  Before when buttons were on front of TVs, I could just press them on the TV itself.  Another example of how technological improvements have made some additional hurdles for me is with the adaptive keyboard I use.  Since I was really young, I’ve used enlarged keyboards with mouse functions built-in (meaning I control the mouse by pressing buttons on the keyboard).  I’ve used the same brand of keyboard for over 15 years.  These keyboards wear out because of just over usage.  A few years ago, it was time to get a new computer and It was then I realized that the keyboard I’ve been using hard been discontinued.  I had an assistive tech evaluation done to see if there was anything similar out there.  Unfortunately, to my surprise, there isn’t another enlarged keyboard that has a built-in mouse on the market.  Luckily, the discontinued keyboard still works computers with newer operating systems, so we bought quite a few used keyboards off eBay.  I’ll use those until another keyboard with a built-in mouse is developed.  I can only guess that the keyboard was discontinued due to more advanced products being developed; however, before something is discontinued, there should be something similar made to replace it.

Some home products are often adapted to be made “handicapped accessible.”  Most of the time, these accessible products make life easier for people with disabilities.  There have been times, however, where I’ve found it’s actually more difficult to use adapted products.  One example that comes to mind is when the housing authority tried installing a high-rise toilet in the bathroom in my apartment.  While I can normally use high-rise toilets, because of the way my bathroom is setup, I would have had a much harder time using a high-rise toilet.  Fortunately, the housing authority eventually listened to me and let me keep the regular toilet.  That’s just one example of where an adapted product didn’t work in my favor.

People say change is good, and I agree most of the time that it is.  However, sometimes with all repercussions of the change, it can do more harm than good.  We, as a society, just have to remember to consider how it will affect everybody involved when making a change! 

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