One state legislator is finding out the hard way what handicapped Iowans who visit the statehouse have learned — it’s not that easy to navigate the building. Representative Mark Kuhn of Charles City is using a walker due to injuries from a November 5th farm accident.
“I made a silly mistake. I fell on a ladder in a grain bin. I thought I was Superman,” Kuhn says. “I’m in a year-long process of rehab.” Kuhn ruptured the tendons in both thighs when he landed. “Have you seen the Capital One commercial where the pillager is trimming the tree? It was a lot like that, including the dead cat bounce at the end,” Kuhn says. “Unfortunately on my way down my heels slipped in front of the rung of the ladder, meaning when I hit the corn, you know, enough about that.” Kuhn must use a walker and has braces on both legs.
Two weeks ago, doctors let him start bending his legs at the knee. He’s undergone physical therapy three times a week at the Charles City hospital and is lining up physical therapy sessions at a Des Moines hospital while the legislature is in session. “They expect a full, functional recovery in about a year and have promised with a lot of hard work that I’ll be able to get back to my livelihood,” Kuhn says. “Get back to getting into tractors and everything I do on the farm.”
The accident happened right at the end of Kuhn’s harvest. “All the neighbors came over and helped me out…We’re very appreciative of that. They continue to help me,” Kuhn says. “You really find out who your friends are, and I have a whole lot of ’em.” Kuhn’s fellow legislators are making accommodations for him at the statehouse. He’s sitting at a more accessible desk in the Iowa House so he doesn’t have to go down steps once he gets up to the second-floor House chamber.
“It’s the little things that you start to notice right away,” Kuhn says. He cites things like bumps in the statehouse floors that make it difficult to push his walker. There are tile floors at the statehouse and the crevices between the tiles in some areas are deep.
Kuhn says he will be a sort of “test case” for just how accessible the statehouse is to handicapped visitors. “Maybe I’ll be able to make some suggestions as to how we can improve things,” Kuhn says. Kuhn will stay in a handicapped accessible hotel room while the House is in session this spring.