Dealing with Challenges

Getting into the First Floor of a 1954 Cape Cod,


Ramps and Patience

The First Ramp
In 1990 I was diagnosed with MS, a progressive disease that was dealt with by me and my family in progressive steps. The first step, was actually a ramp built with my then twelve-year-old son, Chris, in order to stop cars from blocking my scooter path. This ramp also made it possible, while I could, to step into my van more easily.


The Next Ramp
Building the ramp from the driveway seemed simple enough: Learn how to do it, gather the tools, and then simply do it. But with my failing coordination others were needed to make things happen; and so, the former classroom teacher I was began to learn a new way to explain his ideas other than to keep the master plan to myself as we set out to build a ramp and landing, the start of my vertical journey of six feet from the driveway level to the back door of our house. Chris and his younger brother, Jon, were off doing kid things; and so, Judy, my wife stepped in as carpenter. While the ramp would not satisfy the twenty-four feet called for by the ADA, it's twenty-one foot length has served me well for seven years by elevating me the first two feet toward the back door.


The Gate
Having heard about the ramp, my dad nominated Judy for sainthood. I next designed a self-closing stockade gate using a garage door spring to pull it closed quickly and loudly enough to stop our dog from escaping or little kids from opening the gate. This idea was fine except that even with my long arms I couldn't pull the gate open and enter it before it shut behind me. I soon realized I could hook up a wire with a grab handle to open the gate and screen door clips to hold open the gate until I got through, a system that I've used for years. After I enter, I pull the gate free of the clips with a strap connected to the stockade gate.


Bang.... The gate closes and a sharp turn to the left puts me next to an above ground pool as well as "Birdzilla" on my right as I make my way past the footings for the deck, still four feet above me, up a concrete block path the leads to a personal, accessible barbeque pit nestled beside a mini herb garden, and finally, to one 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, and 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 ramp area used a set-up similar to the back yard gate to hold the door open against a wind until I could pull it 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 ia lifesaver when ice and snow make a quick entrance necessary.

More to come...  


I daydreamed Birdzilla into existence over many days of staring at my backyard pool and envisioning myself alf oat there. 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 until I was able to take flight this summer.

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.