Mercedes Gonzalez Amade
HAVANA TIMES — Cuba’s Association for the Physically Impaired (ACLIFIM) recently held an important congress. According to the association’s leaders, one of the main issues debated on during the gathering was the social integration and quality of life of disabled persons.
A member of the association, I was greatly pleased to hear of this, as I feel it was an opportunity to discuss, analyze and try and find answers to the problems disabled people face on a daily basis.
The fact of the matter is that very small things can become problems for those of us who require assistance to move about, be it on a wheelchair or with the help of crutches, canes, prosthetics or orthopedic footwear.
When I say “small”, I am thinking of things like the inner tubes for wheelchair tires or ferrules (those rubber caps placed at the end of crutches and canes). They may strike you as trivial items, but, without them, it is harder for us to go about our daily lives.
I use forearm crutches to walk quite regularly. I had been using a wheelchair for a while, because of health issues, until the doctor gave me permission to walk again. I am now walking short distances using the crutches, as practice.
I usually have a spare ferrule put away somewhere. Recently, however, I realized I didn’t have any left and set out in search of a pair. Finding them is not exactly easy.
To begin with, I needed several “prescriptions” to be able to purchase more than one ferrule. I went to the only two places where they sell them: the Frank Pais Hospital and the CUBA RADA Center.
They didn’t have any at either place. When I asked when I could come back to buy them, they told me no donations had been made in months.
The Association was my last remaining option. There, I got the same answer: “No donations have been made in months.”
I was bound hand and foot. An option might have been buying a pair of new crutches and putting those away as a spare; but the ones I found are plastic at the top, and I’ve had bad experiences with these types of crutches. I’ve had one break in half in the middle of the street.
The ones I have now are made of a different material. They were a gift from a friend, to whom I will always be grateful.
For the time being, I have no choice but to take good care of the ferrules I’m using and to try and find a solution to this problem, for, once they wear down, the crutches could slip and cause something I am always trying to avoid: falling down (and its consequences).
A temporary solution could be to approach a self-employed person who makes rubber pieces for cars, give him a mold of one of the crutches and ask him to make the ferrules out of the rubber they use. It’s not such a bad option. It’s just a question of convincing someone to do it.
It seems odd to me that we should have to wait for donations to solve such a simple problem. I am sure that if serious thought were devoted to the situation, many different solutions would come up. Cubans have demonstrated they can be very ingenious when they have to.
Many people suffer this problem. To get a sense of how many, it’s suffice it to note that, in my district alone, there are over 1,000 members of the Association, most of whom depend on crutches or canes to be able to walk.