Friday, 2 August 2013

The Stairs of Doom

The stairs are out to get me.

I moved a few months ago, and am now living in a high-set house for the first time since I was a very small child.  I once went for a spectacular tumble down the front stairs of that childhood home, and it's only a matter of time before I stack it on our current staircase too.

photo looking up the centre of a spiral staircase
The Tulip Stairs at Queen's House, Greenwich.  The ones at my place are rather less fancy.
This thorny problem has many points.  My balance is very poor, for reasons that may or may not be tied to Aspergers but are certainly neurological.  My proprioception (the sense of where the different bits of my body are in relation to each other, and what they're doing) is pretty dodgy as well.  My depth perception isn't to be trusted either, because I have quite poor vision and tend not to wear my glasses around the house.  These seem to be a perfect set of circumstances to provide me with a sudden high-speed impact with a concrete floor.

So, how do I avoid coming a cropper?

For a start, I'm lucky that whoever designed that bit of the house had the foresight to put a rail on each side.  The stairs are narrow enough that I can reach out and grab both rails and hang onto them as I go up or down.  This is not only so I've something to stop myself falling if I do go over, but it helps me feel a bit more stable and balanced as well.

If I can't grab the rails - say I'm using both arms to carry a basket of laundry - then I lean into one wall, and go up or down with the whole of one side of my body making contact with both the rail and the wall itself.  It won't help me if I do fall, but it really helps my stability.

However, if that basket of laundry is so shaped that it blocks my view of my feet, I'm in trouble.  For all my depth perception is unreliable, I need to be able to see where I'm going or things get fally fast.  It could possibly be related to a theory that popped up recently, that people who are scared of heights have weak vestibular sense or proprioception, so their sense of balance relies more than usual on vision.  Similarly if my vision's blocked - by errant laundry, in this case - I feel much more precarious and unstable.