Tag Archives: Accessibility

Comfort Rooms: Not a Convenient Alternative to Seclusion

A few days ago, the owner of a blindness and mental health E-mail group I am on started a discussion about comfort rooms. Commonly, they’re seen as a kind of less restrictive alternative to seclusion or restraint, but this is a misconception. I have personally experienced being placed in the comfort room and not allowed to come out. Being blind, I also didn’t really notice the comfort room atmosphere, which should be relaxing. In all honesty, the comfort room at the locked ward in the big city institution I was in, was little more than a beautified seclusion room. While the comfort room at my current ward in the small town institution is more calming in its ambiance, I still sometimes get told that I can go into the comfort room in a tone of voice as if I’m being secluded.

In reality, comfort rooms are but one form of relaxation for an irritable patient. For others, going for a walk, listening to music or exercising on a stationary bike might help. I can see why nurses choose the comfort room over some of its alternatives, for a patient in a comfort room requires relatively little care. That is, they are presumed to require relativley little care. All five or so times I spent in comfort rooms, once in my current institution and about four times in the city one, I was left alone whether I wanted to be alone or could safely be alone or not. In this sense, the Netherlands is different from other countries, where patients in crisis are placed under special observation. Here, if you need more care than the staff can provide, you’ll be placed in seclusion or “seclusion light”, ie. the comfort room.

A key aspect of introducing comfort rooms, is that they need to be embedded in a philosophy where the patient is actively engaged in their treatment. Time in the comfort room needs to be a choice. I for one find the comfort room particularly ineffective, and would rather go for a walk or exercise. One reason why I find the comfort room ineffective, besides having been coerced into using it, is accessibility. I didn’t have a clue what was in the comfort room, so was essentially just seated on a couch or chair. Granted, the couch in my current ward’s comfort room is actually comfortable, but the chairs in the city institution comfort room were definitely not. I recommend staff acquaint patients, especially blind ones, with the comfort room at time they’re not irritable and maybe they’ll need to assist the patient sometimes again when they’re using the comfort room for relaxation for the first few times. Staff may not like this, as many view the comfort room as a convenient way not to have to bother with irritable patients while looking like saints for avoiding seclusion. However, seclusion is not a substitute for proper care, and neither is the comfort room.


Three Wishes #Theprompt

I stumbled across #theprompt via Kizzy’s post for this week, which I came across through a blogging community on Facebook. This week’s prompt is: “If I had three wishes…”

Unlike Kizzy, I don’t think big when thinking of what wishes I’d like granted. In fact, this may be selfish, but the firist two I was able to think of, only directly impact me or my family, and the third, I had a hard tiem thinking of.

Wish 1: proper care and support for myself, so that I can live a fulfilling life and have my health and social care needs met. I know this sounds selfih, but I’ve for the last several years always said that, if I won the lottery, I’d spend the money mostly on hiring support staff. I could reframe my wish so that everyone gets the care and support they need, and this would be ideal, but honestly, the first thing that would come out of my mouth if a genie popped out of a bottle, would likely be to wish this for myself.

Wish 2: for my husband to get a great job. I initially wrote “his dream job” here, but I have no clue what that is and I think neither does he. I guess I’ll leave it up to the genie to figure that out.

Wish 3: for every Internet site, book and other media source to be completely accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities. I don’t mean that pictures need to be banned, because that would make media inaccessible to visual thinkers, but I would like to have a way to make them accessible to the blind. This would require technological advancements, but oh well, it isn’t my job to instruct the genie on how to make my wish come true, is it? 😉 That third wish was particularly hard to think of. I originally thought of wanting to see a little again, so this might come out of my mouth if a genie showed up, but since now writing this post, I have more time to think, I realize that what I truly miss is the ability to access visual media sources. Oh, I miss being able to see colors too, but I tried to think of something bigger that would impact other people too, and color detectors are already available, they’re just very expensive.

Okay, now I realize maybe I should’ve wished for wrld peace, an end to discrimination, and an end to poverty. As a teen, these would’ve come to mind quite quickly, I guess. I was involved in politics and not just out of self-centeredness – cause what impact did the war on Iraq have on me? Now that I’m an adult, I’m less idealistic and in a way more selfish, wishing mostly a good life for me and my husband. Oh well, maybe as a teen, if I had little time to make a wish, something more futile like a new laptop would come out of my mouth. 😉


Autism and Justified Anger

On my autism treatment and acceptance, Autisticook commented by saying that anger in an autistic is often justified. She compared it to the situation where a wheelchiar user gets angry because they are faced with yet another two-step staircase that wasn’t necessary and where nobody thought of installing a ramp. This made me think: are we overpathologizing anger in people with developmental disabilities (and mental illness)? Are we incorrectly assuming that anger is part of the disorder, while it’s just a response to a lack of accommodations? This is obviously not a scientific discussion, as what is a reasonable accommodation depends on your perspective.

I just a few days ago heard about cognitive accessibility, where people accommodate their language, for exxample, for understanding by people with learning difficulties. I’m trying to find an accessible and understandable explanation of this, but can’t seem to find one. What I understan dit to mean, includes for example using simple, straightfoward language. With autistic people, you may need to refrain from using figures of speech, for example.

What if you were dropped in a country where you didn’t speak the language and everyone refused to speak English? Would you get angry? Quite likely you would. Now understand autism as communicating in a different language, too. Is it strange then that the autistic gets angry when you routinely refuse to make an effort to speak their language?

Autism is not just a communication disability. It’s in a way a sensory disability, too. Imagine, again, being in that foreign country and everyone shouting at you for whatever reason. They also randomly shine a flashlight at your eyes for whatever reason. In addition, this country is rich on insects, and they crawl over your body all the time. Would you get frustrated? Sure you would!

We do not medicate wheelchair users for getting frustrated at the umpteenth staircase. You would not want to be put on medication if you were in the aforementioed country. So why do we medicate autistics who are irritable? It’s probably because accommodating them requires a radical paradigm shift in what we always thought access was all about. Is it a more radical shift than the shift towards wheelchiar accessibility? I am not sure.