Sunday, July 28, 2013

HomeMod to the Rescue Once Again

  Above is a recent picture my new balcony, complete with summer flowers and an elevated floor.
                      After the exterior balcony floor was elevated, an interior step was added.

There is a fantastic program here in Chicago available to persons with disabilities, it is called HomeMod. Those of you who have been following my blog for the past couple of years will recall that this HomeMod program has done  work for me in the past couple of years. Two years ago I had my hallway bathroom remodeled, having the bathtub and shower doors removed and a walk in shower or in my case a roll in shower installed.

Last year I had the wall to wall carpeting removed and a wood laminate floor installed in the main living area of my condo. All of the modifications that were done were free of charge, if you qualify for the program, you are allowed up to $10,000.00 per year until age 65 to be used toward an improvement that will make living with your disability and maintaining your independence easier.

When I lost my second leg in December 2010 getting out onto my balcony was nearly impossible. Before the balcony was redone there was a four inch step up to the patio door threshold and a seven inch step down onto the actual balcony. Being a bilateral above knee amputee, steps are always a problem and accessibility to anything with steps is particularly difficult, my balcony was no exception.

I am pleased to say that once again the HomeMod program came to my aid, elevating my balcony floor up to the level of the threshold at the sliding patio doors and installing a two inch step inside allowing me to step up onto the threshold and out onto the balcony. Originally I had helped them design the new balcony with the intention of using my short legs to access the balcony. When the project was complete, I was looking at the way it played out  and I discovered I can also access the balcony using my wheelchair.

Anyone who knows me, knows how much I enjoy being outdoors and being unable to get out on my balcony was very displeasing to me. Now thanks to the homeMod program that is no longer an issue, I can easily get outside either on my short legs or my wheelchair. Yeah!

If you are a Chicago resident living with a physical disability and under the age of 65 you may qualify for this very special and highly appreciated program. There is an application process and they will come out to your house to discuss what modifications can be done and even offer advice about what  can retrofitted in your home to make living a more autonomous life, easier.

The gentleman's name is Mark Nobriga, he is the HomeMod Program Director. He can be reached by phone at 312.743.1523 or emailed at: I do not know the website address, if you call Mr. Nobriga he will be able to direct you through the appropriate steps to obtain an application along with the deadline dates etc.

I do not know if other such programs exist outside of Chicago, I suspect that there are other similar programs however, I do not know exact names or websites. It may be helpful to contact the local People With Disabilities office in your town or city.

Heartfelt thanks to the HomeMod Program for once again making my life a little easier and whole lot more enjoyable.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013


                     Here is a picture of the sundeck on the roof of my building before I stained it.
Here is the same area on the roof  of my building after I stained it.
Pictured above are the before and after of my sundeck that I recently finished staining. I had been wanting to stain this deck for quite some time, not only because it was desperately in need of attention but also because I wanted to set a goal I knew was attainable and carry it through to its completion.

It is peculiar how when you are a wheelchair user, that people get their own perception of what you are capable of doing. I recently finished reading a book, a fictitious novel about a gay man in a wheelchair. One of the many things I liked about this book was how the author was able to convey the inner most feelings his main character had, and how he himself felt about being in a wheelchair.

I found many similarities between this character, who was named Bruce and myself. The book describes how many people cannot see past the wheelchair and realize that it is a human being in the chair who has the same needs, desires, hopes and dreams as anyone else. I have noticed in my own experience that people treat you differently, sometimes it is the helpless approach and sometimes it is to ignore you, as if you were invisible.

I remember when I approached the president of the condo board here about my proposal to stain the roof deck of my building, he seemed to be taken aback, if even just a little. He asked me if I were capable of doing such a large job. I reminded him that before I was in a wheelchair that I had been a decorative painter for many years. I ended up turning it into a joke of sorts, asking him, "who is closer to the ground than me?" I assured him I was quite capable of staining a deck and that those areas which I could not reach, like the back side of the railings, I would enlist a friend of mine to help.

Without tooting my own horn too much, I think I have already surprised a lot of people with what I am still able to accomplish. For example, as I have mentioned in earlier posts, I am the treasurer of the condo board here and this year I have demonstrated just how much responsibility, physical and mental endurance I still possess.

Another subtle difference I have noticed is that people who knew me before I found myself in a wheelchair and those who have only known me this way, as a wheelchair user, treat me differently. I do not expect a non-wheelchair person to completely grasp what I am trying to say but there is a slightly and in some cases more than just slightly different  way in which I am treated. When I use the word I it means all wheelchair users not just me in particular.

At first I thought that perhaps it was my imagination that was prompting these suspicions about the way I or we are treated individually and as a group. My suspicions were confirmed by the character in this book I mentioned earlier, who spoke of being treated as inferior because he can no longer walk of his own accord. Sometimes able bodied people inadvertently treat wheelchair persons as second class citizens forgetting that, but by a twist of fate, they themselves could find him or herself in the same predicament.   

If you are new to this whole wheelchair thing, be prepared to be treated differently. When I write all of this I am not saying everyone who is able bodied treats those who are not with disdain or contempt but that there exists subtle differences that are discernable over time. 

The main focus of persons who live their lives in wheelchairs is to remember that we are still the same person we always were and more importantly still able to accomplish great feats despite other person's feelings to the contrary. When I set out with my proposal to stain the sundeck, I knew I was capable of doing just that, perhaps not as quickly as an able bodied person may have, but nonetheless quite proficient at completing the task. 

When we set a goal for ourselves we must bear in mind that we are setting this goal as a means of accomplishing something we want for ourselves and not trying to prove something to someone else. There is nothing wrong with setting out to prove something to ourselves but there is something fundamentally wrong with trying to prove something to someone else.

What was really cool about this whole deck staining thing was that I completed the task, made some money, and perhaps in the interim educated someone else about just what a wheelchair person can really do. In my book that is a win, win win.

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Pictured above is a photo I took at Burnham Harbor here in Chicago right before I went sailing a week ago last Sunday. There is a a program called,  "Judd Goldman Adaptive Sailing Adventures." This program is specifically designed to teach people with disabilities how to actually sail. The small 20'-24' sail boats are equipped with controls that enable persons with unique circumstances to navigate a sailboat with the assistance of a trained able bodied sailing instructor.

This program has been in existence for quite some time, in fact if a person were so inclined, they could, over time, end up competing in sailing races. I spoke with a man named Chris who has been affiliated with JGASA for many years, he told me of the many opportunities this program can afford a person with special needs and of the uniqueness of this particular organization.

I was on board this small sailboat with 4 other individuals along with an instructor, I was actually a guest of the gentleman I had spoke of on occasion named Jacob. Jacob was the guy who has impressed me so much at the RIC gym. Anyway, we received some basic instruction on the various parts of a sailboat and a host of other sailing jargon, too complicated to go into here. After these basic instructions we set sail and were out on the water for  over an hour. It was quite exhilarating, and of course the view of the skyline from Lake Michigan was breathtaking.

Fortunately it was  perfect day for sailing, sunny, breezy and quite warm, lower 90's, however, out on the water it was quite pleasant. I did not actually participate in the sailing of the vessel because I was a guest, however, others onboard were encouraged to help in the sailing and maneuvering of the boat. Naturally, what an individual ended up doing with respect to the "sailing" of the boat was dependant upon what their physical capabilities allowed them to do.

I found this to be a welcome change of pace and will definitely do this again, but this time not as a guest. One must attend classroom instruction, although taught outside by the harbor, along with hands on instruction in the sailboat itself.  The smallest instructional package consists of six 2 1/2 hour sessions at a cost of $100, there are also waivers of the fees under certain circumstances.

As we were leaving the harbor entering Lake Michigan I had a flashback to that old movie starring Jack Nicholson, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," remember when Mr. McMurphy took all those guys out on a deep sea fishing adventure and ended up going in circles? That isn't what happened but that thought entered my mind.

If you are functionally compromised, you will find this program quite exciting and a pleasant change of pace, I know I did. Sometimes it is difficult to step outside of our comfort zone, but in so doing great adventures lie ahead for us.

If you are interested in such a program you may call The Judd Goldman Sailing Center Burnham Harbor at: 312.747.7684 or visit: this organization is always looking for able bodied volunteers to assist in various capacities to further their very worthwhile program.

I will keep you posted to further adventures in sailing as I progress. To leave a comment below hot the comment button or to contact me personally write to: