Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Dangers of Stupidity

Kenny at The Traveling Wheelchair sent me a story that reminded me of two things.
  1. People with disabilities are too often at the mercy of patronizing entities that fail in their responsibility to provide proper service.
  2. That there is a difference in being stupid, and responsible for yourself, and in being subject to another person's stupidity.
The wheelchair restraint story reminded me of an ugly incident here in Missouri that occurred several years ago. Attendants assisting a paralyzed person in taking shower helped him into the shower, turned on the water, and left for reasons I cannot remember. What I can remember is that is that the attendants had misjudged the water temperature settings, and the man was scalded. He eventually died of the injury.

The wheelchair restraint story also reminded me that I rode around for years in my personal van without proper restraints. In fact, I may still be doing so. My first restraints were none. I simply braced myself behind the front seats. My second set consisted on a pair of recessed tracks cut into the van's floor, a series of bungee cords, and one of the van's seat belts across my lap. My present restraint "system" consists of two sets of the van's seat belts, one for the wheelchair itself, and the other for me (to keep me in the wheelchair). The clip ends are bolted onto the frame of my power chair; the open ends are the original bolt devices attached to the van frame. To visualize this imagine two of the van's center seats removed, and all those wonderful seat belt systems waiting to be re-employed.

Most modern, commercially made restraint systems consist of wheel lock-downs augmented by a bar system across the lap of the wheelchair. At least, that's the system I remember in the commercial van used to transport people around Graceland.

I can remember when seatbelts became common on vehicles, and one of the analogies for their use was the comparison of a pea in a can. This, of course, was predicated on the idea of "the can" not coming open and flinging the pea out.

If a person rides about in a 250-pound wheelchair, I suppose the analogy is more like a lead bullet in a can.

I may add another seatbelt to protect myself from my own stupidity. I wish I could do something to protect myself from other people's stupidities.

1 comment:

Kenny & Company said...

Hi Gary,

You're a great writer and very insightful!

The story of the man who was scalded by hot water is TRAGIC. It seems almost criminal that a caregiver would just turn on the hot water and leave a paralyzed person alone in the shower!

As for wheelchair restraints, we find it shocking that most of our states have no current seatbelt LAWS specifically requiring the proper restraints for wheelchair-seated travelers! Especially when many persons traveling in wheelchairs are seriously or fatally injured in a sudden stop or minor crash when they came out of their wheelchair because of no restraint or improper restraint.

We also find it amazing that we spend so much $$$$$ on adaptive equipment for our wheelchair accessible vans and more money on the wheelchair restraint systems, yet no one takes the time to TRAIN the person using it!

As for your own safety when driving, we suggest you check out the Ride Safe brochure to make sure you're secure when driving your van. Ride Safe, has 'Step by Step’ guidelines of proper placement and inspection and maintenance of the Wheelchair Tiedown and Occupant Restraint System (WTORS) equipment. You can find all the information @

Best Regards!

Kenny & Company