My Family Finds Creative Solutions for Inaccessible Situations

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by Halsey Blocher |

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swallowing issues | SMA News Today | banner image for Halsey Blocher's column "From Where I Sit," which shows an open book among ferns, along with some closed books and a pair of glasses

Disabled people and their loved ones are some of the most creative people on the planet, and I don’t just mean artistically. We have to find creative solutions to everyday problems we encounter as a result of our disabilities. Our world isn’t always accessible, and sometimes sees no need to modify existing structures and mindsets to be more inclusive.

Creative solutions can be especially necessary while trying to navigate unfamiliar situations, environments, or locations while traveling.

My family had to implement some of our problem-solving skills during a recent vacation when we found that our showers for the week were a bit problematic.

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We greatly enjoyed our stay and the resort’s amenities, but on our first night, we discovered that washing my hair was going to be a challenge. My bathroom held a bathtub with sliding glass doors, and the shower in my parents’ room had a matching set of doors.

The tub wasn’t an issue. My toilet chair becomes a shower chair by attaching to a sliding frame that allows the whole seat to glide safely over the side of a tub. I use the slider to access my shower at home, too.

The glass doors were what created a hurdle. The narrow opening didn’t allow enough room for the sliding frame that would have given me access to a hot shower.

So, my mom and I quickly devised a solution.

In addition to sliding, my toilet/shower chair also reclines. We decided to move the back of the chair into its flat position so that my head would extend over the edge of the tub on one side of the doors. My mom then repeatedly reached through the doors to rinse my hair with water from a plastic cup because there wasn’t a hand-held shower head. A bed bath ensured that the rest of my body was also properly clean.

creative solutions | SMA News Today | Halsey sits on her bathroom/shower chair, which is reclining through the opening of the shower.

Halsey and her mom figured out how to make an inaccessible shower work for one night. (Courtesy of Halsey Blocher)

I rarely lean back so far because it makes my lower back sore and encourages my spine’s lordosis. I also get nervous that the chair will fall over backward, even though I know it’s built to support my body while reclined.

The shower didn’t turn out to be the long, luxurious soak I had hoped for after two days of driving, but the important thing is that I was clean.

We could have asked to be moved to a different room with a more accommodating bathroom, but moving all of our luggage and medical equipment again would have been quite a chore. Using the shower, while uncomfortable, was actually the easier solution.

After finding that there was no other way to wash my hair with either of the showers available to us, we moved on to plan B after that first night. Because of scenarios like this, I always travel with an inflatable hair washing basin — a gem from a Cure SMA support package.

creative solutions | SMA News Today | Halsey lies down with her head in an inflatable hair washing basin.

An inflatable hair washing basin allows Halsey to have her hair washed without too much difficulty or discomfort. (Courtesy of Halsey Blocher)

Using the basin meant that my mom could easily reach my head, and I could lie in a position that didn’t strain my back.

Overall, I was incredibly impressed with the level of accessibility at our resort, and the people we encountered during our trip were kind and helpful. I don’t want to overlook the numerous good features and experiences we had. They far outweigh this one negative.

The spacious floor plan of our suite was a huge positive. It allowed plenty of room to relax, store medical equipment, and drive my wheelchair. The chairlift into the pool was one of the biggest highlights and made it possible for me to enjoy a wonderful afternoon in the water with my family. And I have to mention that the resort and restaurants offered some spectacular food and desserts!

creative solutions | SMA News Today | Halsey and her mom smile while sitting together on a chairlift in the pool.

Halsey’s mom, Heather Dye, holds her while a chairlift lowers them into a relaxing pool. It was Halsey’s first time in the pool in many years! (Courtesy of Halsey Blocher)

After that first challenging shower, I relaxed in bed and texted vacation updates and pictures to a few friends. One sweet friend said that she was glad I had my “dream team” to help overcome challenges like this.

And she was absolutely right. In this particular instance, the dream team consisted of my mom and me, but I have an awesome support network of family and friends that I couldn’t do life (or vacation) without.

My family and I have been on so many adventures together. I love when those adventures go smoothly, but when they don’t, I have the perfect people by my side to get creative and tackle challenges head-on. And honestly, even the adventures that have some bumps still tend to result in priceless memories. Those memories are shaped by our ingenuity, positivity, creativity, and team mentality that we bring to every situation.


Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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