10 WAYS TO STAY SAFE WITH A DISABILITY
By, Necole Almeida
After a disability your life changes in many ways and so does your safety concerns. Some people see people with a disability as an easy target. I wanted to share some of my top go to rules I have set in place for my own safety. Regardless if your disability is visible or invisible these can be used by you, your family members or your support network to keep you safe. These tips are my basic ways to stay safe, I am not an expert in safety.
1) Do not open the door as soon as you hear a knock. Do not let strangers in your home. Safety first, use the wide-angle peephole to verify who is at the door without opening it. If someone has shown up unannounced and you do not recognize them, do not open the door. If you do not have a wide-angle peephole install one at your personal eye level as soon as possible.
2) Keep a fire extinguisher accessible. Learn how to use it / or ask others who live in your home or come by to learn its operation. Tell them where you keep it.
3) Have an emergency exit plan in place. Look for at least two ways to get out of your home. Identify the best two emergency exits, doors, elevators and stairwells in advance. In case of any emergency if one exit is not accessible, you proceed to the next.
4) I cannot emphasize how important it is to keep your fire alarms up to date. Ask family members to conduct regular checks and change batteries when needed. I recommend doing a quarterly check.
5) I always keep an alarm or timer or some sort of reminder to turn off appliances oven and stove. I also set a timer when I prepare meals and use the stove or oven. This has helped me prevent food from being forgotten and burnt, as I get busy with other work. Also check or ask family members to ensure that the iron has been unplugged, all lights, TV are turned off before leaving home.
6) Do not share and advertise your disability with strangers, if it is an invisible one. The only people who need to know are close family members, friends and your support network. The less people know the safer you are.
7) If you need to make some changes to your home, first ask a physical or occupational therapist for a home visit before doing any home renovations. These projects can add up and you want to get it right the first time.
8) Be very realistic about your disability, avoid places and situations that will put you at risk. You are the best person to make small and handy lifestyle changes and decisions to your environment. Think safety first all the time and that it requires your full attention. Talk a walk around your home and ask family members to tie up loose wires or cords that can cause injury. Keep your home & exits free of clutter. Rearrange furniture and items to meet and suit your needs.
I recommend, if you cannot speak, have a family member or anyone from your support network record a message for you to include your name, address, the form of disability you experience, if you have any allergies and keep it near your phone. You can also carry a written message with you at all times in your wallet or purse as above.
Make a support network which includes family members, friends and people you can trust and rely on & contact in case of any emergency. If you are going out, let your support network know where you are going and what time you will be back. Also try to get to know your neighbors and look out for each other.
In closing develop skills for your personal safety, read, watch videos, take a safety class or listen to podcast etc. Look at all your tools including your voice, your body and wheelchair and use them to stay safe.