Organizing for disabled personsback
Hello, I am Angela Cody-Rouget, Professional Organizer. My company name is Organized 4 Life, LLC. I recently had the amazing, life-changing opportunity to organize the office Chanda Hinton, Founder of The Chanda Plan Foundation. (www.TheChandaPlan.org). Chanda is wheelchair bound and has limited use of her hands. She has a pinch function with her left hand and can shove with her right hand. I had never organized for someone with a disability and I was very dedicated to ensure I presented her with solutions that would be long lasting and welcomed.
I immediately started to search online for products that would give Chanda the greatest amount of independence and productivity. There is very little out there to help someone in times of temporary or permanent disabilities. Almost everything I did find was related to custom made furniture and it was very expensive. I did find a wonderful store called Capabilities and after talking to the owners I felt they may be the only ones out there that could guide me in my search for home office products for Chanda’s office.
My first appointment with Chanda was at her office and the main objective was to assess the current situation and to determine what her current and future needs would be for her office and her foundation. Chanda shared with me that she had a very limited budget and she also helped me understand that in order to get many tasks done she had to wait for an able bodied person to arrive. Chanda was not able to reach her fax machine, important files, books, etc. . . When I first started to work with Chanda, she was a huge wooden desk, an armoire and several small bookshelves. Everything she was using was not best suited for her needs. It would have been fine for an able bodied person, but not for Chanda.
During my initial assessment I measured Chanda’s reaching distance with both of her arms and I discovered that she was only able to utilize the first 12” of her desk. The other 2’ of space ended up being things that got shoved back and became unreachable. I also measured her sitting height with the wheel chair and measured the height of the arms of her wheelchair. All these measurements became the basis for any future furniture and systems.
I left Chanda’s that day feeling very up for the challenge. I also left feeling very anxious. She had a very limited budget and I felt I may have led her to believe I could work miracles for $150. I spent the next few days researching and thinking about solutions for Chanda’s office. I then called Chanda and left her a message stating that I needed her to get rid of almost everything in her office! I told her to have her sister and boyfriend move out the desk and the armoire. I told her that we would have to find her a small desk and we would have to create a system that gave her much more autonomy.
The solution to her lack of autonomy seemed so obvious to me, but I was not sure if she would embrace a new way of thinking about office furniture and processes. During this job I really was made aware of my gift to find solutions that are outside of the box. I also had the opportunity to see how passionate I am about finding organizing solutions for people. I found myself up until 2am searching for solutions, advice and looking for other professionals that had already organized offices for wheelchair bound clients.
For any of you that know Chanda, you can probably guess that she did exactly as I asked her to do. When I showed up for the next appointment there were piles of papers everywhere and the desk and armoire were gone. Now Chanda and I put our heads together and measure walls and floor space and mapped out the flow of her new office. We headed to Home Depot in her van and purchased all the materials we would need to build her a desk and a shelf that ran the entire length of the wall.
We got back from Home Depot with about $150 worth of supplies and we proceeded (with the help of her sweet boyfriend) to hang the 8’ long shelf at the perfect height that would allow her reach and grab papers, send a fax or change printer cartridges. We also designed and built a table together. Chanda and I made a great team—very resourceful and flexible! The table was far from perfect but God’s plan is always better than ours—her table is just a little wobbly and that actually makes it easy for her to get the cat off her desk! It was and still is a goal to Velcro down her pencil holder and office supply caddy.
Once her boyfriend installed the 8 foot long shelf to the right of her desk, we put the printer, fax and lots of stacker trays along it to organize all her supplies, forms and To Dos and Projects. In eight hours we were able to transform her office and dramatically increase her access to her files, papers, etc. . .
Chanda was a dream client. She expressed her concerns along the way and trusted the process. I look forward to going back to The Chanda Plan Foundation and making adjustments as needed.
Since working with Chanda I found myself wondering how many other people are out there that have very limited autonomy and have no idea that there are people like me, a professional organizer, that can create and design affordable work spaces customized for their needs. I found myself crying because I realized that I had never known a disabled person and never had any idea what kind of obstacles our society has placed in their way.
As a professional organizer, I want to help disabled persons find a better way to work and live. Chanda, thank you for hiring me and thank you for opening my eyes to your world.
If you are disabled and would like a free assessment, please contact me: 303.991.5478