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Disabled DIY disasters

by Flash Wilson

30th December 2005

DIY is an opportunity to add new injuries to your collection. There is the chance to aggravate existing conditions, or if you overcompensate with your functioning limbs, you can damage them instead!
I can never decide which is best, so I take no chances by doing all DIY at ground level, sitting on the floor. It avoids the tendency my knees have to dislocate if I twist, and to cause me pain just from putting weight on them. And at least that way I can't fall over!

This brings a whole new set of challenges. At the moment, I'm trying to redecorate the hall. I live in a 100 year-old Victorian end-terrace with lovely high ceilings - that is, they are lovely to look at, but very hard to reach! The place is an ex-student house, and the walls and ceiling are desperate in need of a lick of fresh paint.

Now, I'm happy to tackle new tasks, but it's all a learning experience! So I shall share my findings and tips with you as I progress ...

09:35 - "This should be easy," I think. "I just need to clean the walls and slap the paint on!" So I fill a bucket with sugar soap solution, get a sponge, and start scrubbing. This works quite well - until I need to reach above my head.

10:24 - I have a cunning plan, and use a mop handle to push the sponge higher... until it escapes and bounces onto me. Not to be outdone, I persist until I've had so many wet sponges hit me that I should have been in the stocks. By 11:32, I am sitting in a puddle! Tip #1 - Don't just wear a painting smock, wear a raincoat!
A drenched Flash, sugar soap sponge in hand, realises that her cunning scrubbing plan hasn't quite worked out ...
13:01 - I drag a pot of paint to where I will be sitting. I've thought of everything - I'm in my worst clothes, I have brushes, rollers and a pole, and even some damp J-cloths ready to remove paint that strays onto the woodwork. The stereo's on, and I'm ready to go.

First, I simply have to open the paint. My preferred method for this is to grip the pot with my feet, and then lever it open in the usual way. This works ... in fact, it's so successful that the lid flips - and lands sunny side down on the carpet! Not a great start.

13:08 - I get to work, throwing on the paint. I confess that I'm not a very patient sort, but it doesn't have to look great - it's just to cover some horrid stains. The roller is loaded time and time again, until I've done everything I can reach ...

14:48 - Now for the extension pole. It's a little wobbly, so I lash things together with tape and start on the top half of the walls Tip #2: Take spares of everything, so you don't have to keep getting up to clean your equipment.

Have you spotted the snag? I think you're meant to start at the top and work downwards, so that drips don't ruin what you've already done, but nobody told me that before I started.

16:55 - I shuffle forward and back, tidying errant paint, before I realise that the drips from on high have also landed on me! And my shuffling has left a snail trail of paint from my posterior ... the walls look great, but the floor is a disaster! Tip #3: Leave nothing uncovered ....

18:47 - My partner is home ... uh-oh! Luckily he simply decides that we'll throw out the carpet and sand the floorboards. This sounds like a great idea - but a lot more work!

Now, sitting on the floor with an orbital sander near your important bits is quite a scary prospect. For that reason, we agreed that my partner would sand, and I would varnish afterwards. Tip #4: If you can't manage, get someone else to help out!

ONE WEEK LATER ...

09:35 - "What can go wrong with varnishing?" I wonder, as I start applying it, a section at a time, shuffling backwards as I go. In fact it's an easy job, and I soon get into the rhythm of the work
A disgruntled Flash finds herself trapped in the middle of the hall floor, surrounded by wet varnish on all sides
10:12 - Just as I think I've finished the first bit, I realise there's a small patch I haven't done - and I'm sitting on it! But there is a snag. I have varnished right around myself, and being rather unbalanced, I need much more space to be able to stand up. I'm stuck! I feel foolishly like one of those ladies in an aid-call advert. Tip #5: Plan for every eventuality!

10:15 - Sitting and watching, er, varnish dry, I add "a good book" to my list of essentials to have at hand. Next time, at least I'll have something to read while I wait!

It's pretty obvious that I make a mess of DIY. But I enjoy it, and if things need to be done there's no reason why disabled people shouldn't be able to tackle them ... just so long as we're equipped with a sense of humour!

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