When Kristi Peak-Oliveira’s father-in-law, Henry Oliveira, turned 100 this past summer, he was ready to party. But only if the gathering took place at Kristi and Jeff’s house in Hanover.
The thought of it filled Kristi with dread. While Henry is in great health, his mind sharp, and he doesn’t look a day over 80, he’d nearly fallen the last time he’d come to visit her, just entering the house with his walker.
“It was very scary,” she says, “and it’s only two steps up from the garage!”
Kristi suggested the party happen at Henry’s assisted living residence, instead, where it is fully accessible for his walker and wheelchair. But Henry didn’t like the idea. Then he said didn’t want the party at all.
“He went back and forth about it,” she says, “until finally he decided he did want the party, but only if it were at our house.” That’s when she saw how important it was to him.
“So I told the family, Ok, if it’s happening here, then I’m calling for ramps. I’m definitely calling for ramps.”
The ramps, she knew, would come from the MassMATCH short-term device loan program: wheelchair-accessible ramps that are portable and temporary and which anyone can borrow–at no charge–for 4 weeks at a time.
Kristi works for Easterseals MA and has a long history of borrowing equipment from the MassMATCH device loan program for use with clients. As a speech-language pathologist, Kristi has often borrowed devices in the category of augmentative alternative communication (AAC), but the loan program includes a wide range of assistive technology including equipment for wheelchair users such as pressure mapping technology, portable scales, and portable ramps.
“A lot of people don’t know you can get ramps this way,” she acknowledges. “Or they don’t think of it. But it was seamless and easy and Henry was right. Our house was the best place for his party.”
To borrow the equipment, Kristi went to the MassMATCH online inventory webpage and requested two ramps she thought she’d need: a ramp for the stairs leading to her front door and a threshold ramp to help Henry enter.
Once her request was made, Kristi heard from her colleague Catherine Bly in the Boston AT Regional Center. Easterseals operates this center for MassMATCH as well as an ATRC in Worcester.
Catherine confirmed with Kristi that the ramps she’d ordered were appropriate for the number of steps and their rise and for Henry’s wheelchair. (The ramp length needed depends on a formula and the formula is different if the user has a power wheelchair or a manual chair.)
About a week before Henry’s party, Ebert, a longtime employee of Easterseals brought the ramps to Kristi and Jeff’s home. “Ebert provides a great service,” she says. “He sets up the ramps and takes them down after the loaner period. He also problem-solves your location. In our case, he studied our doors and entryways and confirmed where we should put them.”
On the day of the party, Henry was impressed as he rolled into the house with ease, but it was everyone else’s reaction that most struck Kristi. “Everyone was so appreciative. And they couldn’t believe how simple it was to arrange for the ramps through MassMATCH.” She says it’s why she wanted to do this story and why she posted about it on Facebook. “More people need to know how easy it is to borrow ramps!”
As for the party, she acknowledges, their house was the best place to have it. Henry had been right. “He was so happy to be there with everyone, and it was easy to show home movies and videos. We looked at parties from the 80s and called out when we recognized friends and family. We had a really good time.”
In the future, Kristi says this is definitely a service she will use again. “We love having Henry here and it is a huge relief to know we can get him in and out of the house safely.” She’ll just plan ahead with MassMATCH.
What could a set of portable ramps make happen for your family? Call your AT Regional Center and discuss the possibilities or any other equipment that might make the upcoming holidays more inclusive and enjoyable for all.