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  • Writer's pictureCandis

The Self Care: A Woman’s Right to Manicures and Pedicures!

A look at how different-abled women can navigate the woes of an inaccessible nail shop and still achieve the highest level of relaxation in your pampering session.

As a woman, there are certain perks that we can partake in that can provide a true sense of femininity and relaxation; such as trips to Sephora/ Mac Cosmetics, spa days and the beloved manicure and pedicure sessions. For many of us our once a-month (or for some of us every two weeks) mani/pedi session is the holy grail of relaxation and recharge. In general, when a woman’s nails are done there’s a peep in her step and a relaxed air about her. Unfortunately, for me… it’s not quite the same vibe.

As a differently-abled woman, my experience of the mani/pedi has evolved over the years, and the evolution hasn’t always been pleasant, more times than not, it’s left a bitter taste in my mouth.

I recently went to get a mani/pedi after skipping a few pamper sessions (yes, I’ve been slacking on my self-care duties but I’m making a better effort lol) and while there, I reflected on how I fought so hard (for decades) for this simple pleasure and wanted to share my journey and what it taught me about myself and the importance of knowing my worth.

As a young girl I remember going to the nail shop with my mom every Sunday; we’d get in the car and I’d plan out all the color options I could think of as we drove over to the nail shop. I loved the foot-soak, the mini massage and trying to mimic my mom’s perfect french manicure. She made getting your nails and feet done look so feminine and classy and that’s all I wanted to be... just like my mom.

Over time, as I matured (and started paying for my own pampering…), I continued my mani/pedi’s and enjoyed trying new colors, designs, pressure massages. Back then (in my twenties- early 2000's ) when it was time for the pedicure portion I only made minor modifications to the service, because at the time I had less restrictions and… to put it frankly, my disease hadn’t begun to really progress….oh how the times have changed.

In the last decade nail salons have changed a few things, one of them being the actual massage chair. Back in the day, the “massage chair” was an upgradedoption and the regular pedicure was done with the standard bucket and warm water. This worked for me, as a differently-abled woman I normally classify myself as non-transferable, which means I am technically not able to transfer from my power wheelchair to another seat. Let’s be clear tho, it’s not that I cannot be transferred… more so I don’t feel comfortable with random people who are not familiar with me or my body attempting to pick me up and readjust for comfort. Naw, I’ll pass lol, once you’ve been dropped once or twice you are VERY particular on who picks you up… and I’ve been dropped enough to know…do not trust everyone who “thinks” they can do it.

Sadly, once the nail shops replaced the standard buckets with the massage chairs it became difficult to get pedicures. I completely understand why the nail shops replaced the buckets with the massage chairs; sanitary concerns, faster service and it allows for the client to truly have a better experience. Sadly, it seems as though the disabled community was not thought about when this change was implemented. So to enjoy my services, I immediately had to modify my pedicures and unfortunately to this very day I have never been able to experience the massage chairs and all its glory.

In my first modification hack, I attempted to park my wheelchair right next to the massage chair (at the Jacuzzi foot tub) and have them place my feet in the Jacuzzi foot-soaker, however, even with this hack, I still unable to utilize the massage features nor the Jacuzzi foot soaker because my feet never reached all the way inside the soaker. With little room for adjustment, I did this for about five years (for as long as I possibly could) not for pleasure, pedicures quickly lost there relax appeal with me; they became a painful and shaming experience for me. Unless I was a regular at a shop, whenever I rolled in I was pitied; I felt as if they were treating me as a less than client, as an alien, treated like they had never seen someone in a wheelchair, never serviced anyone with special needs?!? More times than not I felt like the employees were quietly “shaming” me for even asking for a service and requesting modifications.

Eventually, I purchased my own foot soaker that I could use in my home; you can purchase them online or at a local Target or Walmart store. For years I would go to the nail shop and just get my nails done and proceed home and ask my nurse to help me soak and clean my feet. Although, I was able to get the basics done, I still wasn’t able to really enjoy it; I was missing the relaxation component, the luxury of having your toes professional painted and designed.

After depriving myself for years, I decided it was time to take back my self-care, spa rituals and get back to doing things that made me happy and not let the “shame” from others stop me but let it empower me! After a couple failed attempts, I found a shop close by house (about four blocks) and let them provide manicures first, just to get a feel on how accommodating they were, because although pedicures require more modifications, my manicures require a certain amount of modifications as well, not as many… but they still require modification. In my opinion, if you’re able to adapt to my needs and provide me great customer service (because at the end of the day my dollar spends the same way that a regular able-bodied person’s dollar spends… so the treatment should NOT be any different) I’m more likely to give your pedicure service a try.

After finding a nail shop and testing them out for months, I finally found a nail technician that understood me and worked with my needs. Obviously, not all people in wheelchairs have the same needs but for me, my legs and feet are more sensitive and don’t require abrasive scrubbing or heavy foot rubs. She was able to adapt and never made me feel different and it felt amazing!

During this time I came up with a new modified hack for my pedicures, it was clear that the massage chairs were here to stay, in fact they were becoming even more high tech, so I needed to come up with a solution fast. I decided to buy my own bucket and make arrangements with the shop to leave it on site so whenever I wanted a pedicure I wouldn’t have to load up my wheelchair. I also bring my own Epsom salts, bath bombs and request more soaking time (about 15 minutes) to enhance my experience.

It may not be the typical way to have a pedicure, maybe more work to others, but it works for me and it allows me to get back to doing my self-care rituals and getting back to what makes me happy… it’s priceless. For those who have yet to really feel comfortable demanding their own needs be met for their own self-care rituals such as a spa visit, waxing, or mani/pedi… I have a few tips that have helped me on my journey:

Never feel bad for demanding something that you need to make you feel comfortable.

Always remember: If you don’t like the service/ treatment you are receiving, you don’t have to frequent that business. Your power is in your dollars, I know it may seem small but just think, if you decide to not return to that nail shop because they treated you unfairly or made you feel a certain way and you were to spread the word among friends, family, and if you’re like me… the media; I guarantee that shop will feel that!If it doesn’t accommodate you don’t just walk away in defeat, as a differently-abled person in today’s world you have to become very creative in how to make things adapt to you because society is not going to modified things around you. This may require you to plan ahead, ask for additional assistance, be outspoken, etc… do what you need to do to enjoy what you deserve… you are worth the effort.

When in doubt, step stools are your friend lol. I use quite a few during beauty services and its an expensive modified hack that can allow you endless peace of mind.When you find a professional, someone who can understand and adapt to your needs whether it be at the spa or the nail shop, stick with that person! Always remember to tip them well because although they are performing a “general” service… it’s not general for you; he/she is going beyond what the other technicians are providing.

He/She is providing you more attention, adapting/ customizing more and they deserve to be compensated for that great service. When you find a great professional… stick with them! I’ve been working with my current nail tech for almost four and a half years and I would not go to anyone else… it’s just not worth my sanity.If you can make an appointment, MAKE ONE!

Walk-ins are always a slippery slope on whether they may or may not have time to perform the service properly and adequately so that it meets your needs.If you think it may be difficult to express what you need done to the technician due to a language barrier, I suggest you try Google Translate. You can either type out what you need done (step by step) or try to do a translation in person; what you don’t want is someone not truly understanding what they need to do to help you and they end up causing pain or injury.

Most important: Do not stress out! You’re going to this professional for a service that is supposed to alleviate your stress, you don’t need to add stress.

I hope my suggestions help and it provides insight into a world that is often ignored or an after-thought (at best). Just know … we exist and we like pampering ourselves just like the next person.

Until next time, this is my world… on wheelz!

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