It has been quite an exhausting few days, but slowly I believe I am making headway in finding an accessible place to stay while studying abroad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this summer (here)/winter (there).

Here at home, it doesn’t occur to me that I sleep in a hospital bed with side bars and a trapezoid over my head that I can grab onto when I need to get out of bed.  And all those grab bars I have to hold onto as I make my way to the bathroom at 3 a.m.  Oh yeah, those small unnoticeable, but most important items that will be sorely missed when I get to Brazil.  I realize the studio apartment I want to rent is set up wrong for my particular needs.  I must rely on my right side to get out of bed or stand up from the sofa, since my left side is partially paralyzed and my left hand totally useless from my 10-year old stroke.  Can I move the bed and sofa bed from the south wall to the north wall, and the TV set to the south wall, to make accessibility to the bathroom easier in the middle of the night, instead of my risking a fall out the window that currently faces the side I must sleep on?

Many questions have come up for me these last several days–especially at 4 in the morning (gasp, eyes fly open, OHMYGAWD!  I didn’t think of that when I first made these arrangements).:

  1. What exactly are my accessibility needs in the home and at school, on field trips, in using public transportation, and getting around the city (cut curb sidewalks, accessible beaches, tourists, restaurants, public bathrooms…)
  2. Do I need personal assistance while studying abroad?  How much?  Where will I need it:  in the home (help me unpack and hang up my clothes; help me with laundry once or twice a week; hang up washed clothes to dry; grocery shopping), at school (test taking, hand writing essays–no can do–), on field trips, and in getting around the city?  Who can help me?  What should I budget for six weeks?  How often per day/week do I need help?  What for?
  3. What extra tools do I need for my rental:  i.e. shower chair, bath mats, grab bars, elevated bed–how many inches off the floor to make easing out of bed tolerable?  What about the need for an elevated toilet seat, so I don’t get stuck and have to scream for help?   Since fracturing my knee cap a few months ago, the pain makes this type of mobility much more difficult than before and, at times, embarrassing.
  4. Should I bother renting a power wheel chair or just rent a manual wheel chair?  Do I rent here or wait until I get to Brazil and rent there?  If I only have a manual wheel chair, I need someone to push me around at all times, since I cannot steer the chair because of my compromised left side.  Taxi?  Do I hire a Personal Assistant to push me to and from classes each day?  Should I bother to take my walker, which gives me better support, or just take the cane and risk feeling less steady.  I will take the braces for both legs.  Before the fracture, I only wore one brace.

As usual, I work backwards.  I have done a lot of foot work this past week, and only NOW do I go to the MOBILITY INTERNATIONAL, USA website. Of course, I have found some excellent information:

Working Across Cultures:  Disability Culture in Different Countries
The Health and Disability Management Plan for Study Abroad Form
Assessing the Disability Related Needs of  Exchange Participants (for me the physical disability accommodation form)
Study Abroad College Level Accommodation Form for All Disabilities (Access Abroad)
There are so many more resources to tap into still–I am overwhelmed by all that is out there.  The adventure continues, and it has yet to even begin.  Well, I still have 23 days (and counting!) until I depart for Rio de Janeiro.

One response »

  1. wow – looks like you’ve found some excellent resources! Maybe you need to send them to the U of F? 🙂 Lots of good, detailed thinking going on here…

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