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Dealing with Challenges

Getting into the First Floor of a 1954 Cape Cod,


Ramps and Patience

The First Ramp
The first ramp we built.In 1990 I was diagnosed with MS, a progressive disease that my family and I dealt with as the disease developed. When I was confined to my scooter, I found I needed a driveway ramp to step into my van and to keep other cars from blocking my way in the driveway. My twelve-year-old son, Chris, built the ramp with my instructions.

Our first ramp.
The Next Ramp
Building the ramp seems simple enough. First, learn how to build it, gather your tools, and then simply do it. But with my failing coordination, I needed others to make things happen. The former classroom teacher that I had been had to learn a new way to explain his ideas. Sharing the master plan with others, we set out to build a second, more complicated ramp and landing which would rise six feet as it moved from the driveway to the back door of our house. My son Chris and his younger brother, Jon, were involed in their own kid activities with their firends,so my wife Judy stepped in as carpenter. While the ramp would not satisfy the twenty-four feet called for by the ADA, its final, twenty-one foot length has served me well for seven years by elevating me two feet toward the back door. My father, a engineer, was astounded by the fine work done by my wife, Judy, and nominated her for sainthood.
The ramp fomr the driveway to the back yard.
The second ramp we built, one I use to move from the driveway to the back yard.
The Gate
I next designed a self-closing stockade gate, using a spring from garage door spring to close the gate quickly and loudly enough to keep our dog from escaping and to prevent the neighborhood kids from opening the gate. I found, however, that my long arms would now allow me to pull the gate open to enter before I got through it. I soon realized I could hook up a wire and a grab handle to open the gate and use screen door clips to hold open it while I got through to the other side of it. After entering through the gate, I pulled it free of the clips with a strap connected to the gate and--bang--the gate closed. A sharp turn to the left put me next to my above ground pool as well as to "Birdzilla" on my right. I make my way past the footings for the deck and kitchen door still four feet above me.
Opening the gate to the backyard.
Grasping the wood handle of the wire pull, I open the gate.
Opening the gate The clips which hold the gate open. The gate closing with the garage door spring's help. Left to right: I grasp the handle of the wire pull to open the gate. The screen door clips hold the gate open. After I move through the gate, I pull it free from the clips and the spring shuts it behind me.
I continue up a concrete block path the leads to an accessible barbeque pit nestled beside a mini herb garden to the last ramp to the deck, still eighteen inches above the barbeque pit. Eighteen inches might as well be ten miles if you don't have help. Fortunately, my two boys, one of Chris' friends, plus a former student of mine hired as a foreman for this crew, soon had the span connected to the deck, leaving only one task to complete: a mini-ramp leading to the back door and into the kitchen. This final mini-ramp area used a set-up for the kitchen door similar to the one used by the back yard gate to hold the door open against a wind until I could pull the door closed behind me. Due to some difficulty with triggering the door opener, I found it helpful to use a bungee cord to assist me when I feel especially weak. I simply push the triggered handle with a brightly colored stick to cause the door to spring open. This is a lifesaver when a quick entrance necessary. Turning the corner of the garden path, I approach the BBQ pit and final ramp.

The final ramp to the deck. The final ramp to the deck.
Approaching the kitchen door Entering the kitchen

The door is open.
More to come...  


2011 marks 10 years of Birdzilla

View the Video of Birdzilla still in action after 10 years of service.
I daydreamed the contraption Birdzilla into existence over many days of staring at my backyard pool and envisioning myself afloat in its cool water. With lumber, concrete, an old seat, wire, pulleys, an electric hoist motor, Judy (my wife turned carpenter), and sons, Chris and Jonathan, Birdzilla grew in the back yard and I was able to enter the pool in 2002.
Row 1: (l) Birdzilla begins to lift me over the pool's edge. (r) Birdzilla lowers me into the pool. Row 2: (l) My PT, Peter, joins me in the pool for therapy. (r) In the pool. Row 3: The hoist motor in its housing.