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Making the Home--and World--More Accessible to the Disabled

September 22, 1990|BETH COBB

Access is an ongoing challenge for the disabled, according to Jim Wickersham, who has been an occupational therapist at Casa Colina Hospital for Rehabilitative Medicine in Pomona for 18 years.

"They have many forms of access problems," he says. "The most basic has to do with space, how to enter and get around in their living quarters. But people need access to the world as well--no one wants to be housebound."

Wickersham uses the telephone as one example.

"The phone company offers 'manual' service to the handicapped free of charge. For people who can't dial or press buttons, telephone companies provide equipment that connects them directly with an operator who handles the call for them. It works with a speaker phone."

Other access-related devices are available too, from private elevators to electronically controlled carousels (similar to those in dry-cleaning stores) that "bring" clothes to a person.

"But unless you're wealthy or have incredible insurance benefits, these things are just not within the range of most people," Wickersham notes.

"What occupational therapists try to do is find practical solutions for our clients. Since every case is unique, it takes a team effort: the client, the family, the physical therapist, the social worker.

"In the end, the best solution is what fits the situation."

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