Home » Steve Patterson » Recent Articles:

Navigating the sidewalks in a wheelchair

Today, my first full day back from physical rehab, I attended a Society of Professional Journalists luncheon down the street.  So I ventured out in the power chair from my place at 16th & Locust over to Lucas Park Grille at 13th and Washington.

Not a huge distance but one that would have been pretty difficult in a manual chair.  Curb ramps were in place on all the corners except one.  The ones that did exist, however, were often broken or had a huge edge at the point of approach.  Again the power chair was able to handle the situation but not everyone has such a chair.  Also I have to say that using a manual chair vs a power one can be rewarding — like riding a bike vs driving a car — one requires physical exertion but with that you get a sense of accomplishment.  You seem more connected to your environment.

At a casual glance we look around and see curb ramps and thus assume the environment is accessible to the physically disabled.   The real question we need to ask is how functional is the environment?  Poorly installed or damaged curb ramps reduces functionality, at times to zero.  Cities all over the country pay a small fortune to upgrade their intersections with curb ramps but when they don’t work as intended it simply becomes another waste of taxpayer money.

On the other side, when curbs and such are done right, disabled members of the community can lead independent lives rather than wasting away in costly nursing homes.    In that context, investing in accessible
infrastructure is very cost effective.

A fellow patient from MRC also returned to his home near South County Mall yesterday.  Despite being close to both a good number of employment and shopping choices his options for getting there are very limited.  His neighborhood of single family detached dwellings has plenty of paving for driveways but not sidewalks.  Getting to a point where he could catch a bus is nearly impossible.  He’ll need an expensive van with a lift to be mobile not because of his inability to push his wheelchair but because of the poor pedestrian nature of where he lives.   So while I may have issues with a ramp here or there at least we have sidewalks!

We all make choices about where we live and I must say I am very pleased with mine.


I’m Returning Home Today!

April 30, 2008 Steve Patterson 11 Comments

After three very challenging months, later today I will be back at home. I still have a lot of rehab to do in order to be back where I was prior to the stroke but that will take some time.

For the past nearly two weeks I have been “independent in my room” meaning that I was free to walk to the bathroom and to do my own transfers from the wheelchair to the bed and back. For several days now I have been “independent on the floor” which meant I could walk to the dining room for floor without a staff person at my side.

I still have some anxiety about being on my own again after having so much excellent help. Still I have managed to overcome great adversity these last three months so I know that I have the willpower to meet the challenges that I will soon face.

A couple of days ago I uploaded a new video to YouTube. It’s only 20 seconds but it shows me moving my left arm. My left hand is wrapped to a table top device they call the bicycle which you pedal with your hands. I’m able to use my shoulder to pull my arm back to my side — keeping this up allows me to rotate the pedal over and over.  Check it out:

I have a loaner wheelchair until I get my own in June.  Around the house I will be walking with my cane but the loaner chair is motorized so that will give me the freedom to run around downtown with ease.  It will also let me get to the bus and MetroLink.  I’ve got a folding cane ordered so I might use the power to get somewhere and then walk at that point.  The longest I’ve walked since the stroke has been about 600 feet — half a block roughly.
Sadly it will be some time before I’m back on my Honda scooter so I am reluctantly car shopping.

In packing up my stuff yesterday I realized this was the longest I had been away from the City of St. Louis since I moved here in August 1990 at the young age of 23.   St Louis is my adopted home and despite my criticisms of it’s flaws I am so looking forward to being back.

I want to thank my blood family as well as my St Louis family of close friends for being there with me on this journey — I could have not survived without them — literally.  In the coming months their help will again play an important role in my life.   Thanks to all of you sticking with me here at UrbanReviewSTL these last few months.

For the moment it is just so exciting to be returning home.


Former Sanatorium grounds offers glimpse into Missouri’s history

Since March 21st I have been at the Missouri Rehabilitation Center located on a big hill overlooking the small Missouri Town of Mt Vernon. Originally the facility was opened in 1907 as a Tuberculosis sanatorium. In the 1980’s the focus shifted to physical rehabilitation.

Back in the day the facility was completely self sustaining complete with its own farm fields, dairy cows and so on. So yesterday I got bored and decided to go exploring — in my wheelchair!

I did three outings yesterday in different directions, taking my camera on two out of three trips.

Above is the main administration building although this entry is no longer the main entrance. Wings were added on each side in the 1950’s. … Continue Reading


I Have Missed This View, on KDHX Monday

April 24, 2008 Downtown, Steve Patterson Comments Off on I Have Missed This View, on KDHX Monday

Just days prior to my stroke I took a series of pictures from my balcony and from the shared rooftop space:

Above is the view from my balcony looking North. I’ve been away for nearly three months now but I know the view is unchanged. CPI Corp. hasn’t built a new building on their surface parking lot (that would be nice).

A guy was found murdered in the parking garage of the Ventana (right above).

The view is still in place for my return to St Louis and back to my own place.

Tune in Monday evening at 7pm on 88.1 or online at kdhx.org and I will talk about my rehabilitation, the date I return to St. Louis (soon) and share details on a welcome back party in my honor. I’ll also talk about being disabled and what life is like in a wheelchair.  Of course host DJ Wilson and I will talk about current development issues in St Louis.


Downtown Springfield, MO, a follow-up visit & rehab update

Not even being a patient in a rehab hospital will prevent me from getting out and about. This past weekend my two older nieces and their mom came up from Oklahoma City to visit me. On Saturday they indulged me and we headed eastbound on I-44 to Springfield, MO. My last post on Springfield was nearly three years ago — from when I was there for a class to get certified as a bicycle safety instructor.

Our first stop was to satisfy my nieces’ husbands — we stopped at a Brown Derby Liquor store to get some He’Brew beer so they could take it back to them. It was here that I saw something a bit odd.

A bike rack at a liquor store.

Personally I think we need to have bike parking everywhere, including liquor stores. Such parking could serve employees as well as customers. However the way this rack is mounted up on that curb I think it reduces some of the utility — perhaps it works ok in practice.

Our real destination was downtown and the Park Central Square (see map).

According to When Missouri Took The Trolley by Andrew Young, Springfield’s first horse drawn trolley line originated in the Square, opening on April 15, 1881. In short order additional lines would open— most converging on the square but heading different directions. Eventually electric lines replaced horses for powering the vehicles. St. Louis investors were among some of the early backers of these lines.

St Louis based developer Kevin McGowan and his company Blue Urban have plans to convert the old Heer’s Department store (above) into lofts. Several other smaller buildings on the square have already been converted and at sidewalk level are a couple of coffee houses. A hip new public library branch is open in one of the storefront spaces.

Around a portion of the square remains an earlier attempt to revitalize the area — a concrete canopy that once encircled the square. Facades of once beautiful buildings were blocked by this attempt to give the area a uniform open air mall look. Thankfully this awning has been removed from the other three corners.

The Square’s center is still a bit on the dated side. It was a nice day while we were there but we saw few people out.

Despite the dated appearance we ventured into the center and took time to pose for a picture — On my left is Patty and on my right is Shelley — their mom, my oldest brothers first wife, Sam, took the picture.

Well, since I am sharing personal family photos, above is me & Sam on the square. All three are Oklahoma State fans so I wore my Oklahoma University shirt to get a rise out of them — mission accomplished.

We had lunch at a cute Italian deli, St Michaels bar & grille. We didn’t have to worry about cigarette smoke since Springfield banned smoking a number of years ago — somehow the restaurants managed to stay in business. Imagine that? I guess people do go to restaurants to eat and not to smoke.

Just South of the square is one of Springfield’s more tragic buildings . I’m guessing this is actually an old building that got a horrible new skin a few decades ago. Whenever it was done, they shouldn’t have.

When I was here in 2005 the parking arrangement on South Ave was different than it is now. In 2005 the left side of the street above had angeled parking but now it is basic parallel. All parking downtown is free, a mistake in my book.

At the end of a side street, not far from the square, is a large parking garage. It seems that they left their old downtown intact but chipped away at the edges. Although Springfield is the county seat I didn’t spot the courthouse or the city hall.

After we had toured downtown Springfield it was time to head back to the hospital. Yes, that is me getting into Sam’s big gas-sucking SUV. As my right side remains strong, I was able to pull myself into the vehicle along with a little push from Patty.

That evening we went to dinner here in Mt Vernon and we decided to leave the wheelchair in the vehicle — my physical therapist had given me the OK to walk out in public as long as one of my relatives “guarded” me against falling (holding onto a gait belt around my upper torso). It felt good to walk into into a restaurant rather than being wheeled in.