Disabled parking spaces are only one minor irritation for wheelchair users. Let's acknowledge first that there are a lot of ways to be disabled, some of which are not visible. There is a wide variety in mobility for different wheelchair users too, from those completely paralyzed to those who are elderly and need a cane to walk. So someone might be using a disabled parking space for several different reasons.
Beyond parking though, there are the issues of steps, doorways, aisle widths, and so on.
Unless there are ramps, if a building has steps, a wheelchair user can't access it. A helper may be able to pull a manual chair up one step at a time, though that can be dangerous for the rider if anything happens. But an electric chair like mine weighs 300 lbs. Add my own weight, and this chair isn't going up any steps! This means you can't easily visit any friends who live in homes with outside steps.
You can't always put a ramp anyplace it's needed either. For example to get up to a front door with a 6" step, I would need a four foot ramp, but I'd also need four feet for the wheelchair to get started. This is just too tight for safety. So I'd like a 10 foot wide front porch. Ours is only 6 feet. On a related issue, I expect few people give any thought to a second exit in case of fire, but we put a ramp out onto our deck and from there to the grass. (We have a very low deck, and we did have a house fire).
Once you head inside, doors need to be about 4" wider than the wheelchair, and that's a very narrow minimum. Even doors that are wide enough may require an immediate sharp turn. Ideally outside doors need to be 36"; ours are 31" - no wonder there are two big chunks out of the wooden door frame!
Door thresholds are a challenge too, because they can throw the wheels of the chair sideways. We've had to put several mats down at the door I use to go outside in order to get a smooth passage. Commercial door thresholds are usually better.
Once you get inside, you have to able to access things. Our library has an excellent wheelchair entrance, but the stacks don't allow for wheelchair turns at the ends of the rows. I had to back up 20 feet with only an inch or two to spare on each side. You really feel trapped! I've been in stores where you can only get down the main aisles, let alone reach clothes on hangers for example.
Restaurants are a special case. We've been in several, and had no serious issues, but usually the aisles between tables are not wide enough if other tables are occupied. And both the rear wheels and the headrest mount on my wheelchair stick out behind my chair, ready to trap any waitress who isn't watchful enough. Hence my smiley face.
That gives you a rather disorganized taste of what I've been thinking about on our recent excursions. Overall I've been pleasantly pleased by the access we've found, and by the helpfulness of strangers.
Well said! Until you have been in a chair you don't understand what obstacles others face. A long time ago, I was in a chair for about 2 months...then on crutches for another six months...this was before the handicap doors...tried to open a door on crutches and get inside to renew a building permit at the courthouse...it was a struggle. My Children were not strong enough to open the big heavy door. I made it but it was a struggle. :(ReplyDelete
It's a learning curve. I would not have thought of the aisles in a library, for instance, as being an issue, and I'll have to look at my branch what they're like in terms of dimensions.ReplyDelete
One just has no idea about all these things until it happens to you or someone you know well enough to be exposed to it all. I am so glad that you have at least some access. That library issue is worrisome, though. Perhaps it can be addressed?ReplyDelete
It's a challenge for handicapped to make their way around.ReplyDelete
When our son was in college he took a course that required each student to use a wheelchair for an entire day -- a real eye-opener for a lot of folks. When my mother-in-law had to use a wheelchair for the last several years of her life we saw all the difficulties created by inaccessible buildings -- as you point out, there are many.ReplyDelete
As a civil engineer that designs streets and sidewalks, I'm very familiar with designing curb ramps, sidewalks, and traffic signals to accommodate wheelchair users.ReplyDelete
I have a slight handicap and sometimes use the handicap parking if it is a particularly bad day - but we are always careful about leaving the space needed for those with wheelchairs. And if there is a parking space fairly near the entrance that is regular parking we will use that when possible to leave the handicap spaces for those who need it most - it is just the polite thing to do - as well as the right thing.ReplyDelete
My mother was in a wheelchair for two and a half years while I was taking care of her. Fortunately she lived in a condo with an elevator. She was on the third floor so I'm not sure what we would have done in an emergency like a fire, but the landing on the stairs had a placard that said it was an emergency waiting area. Hopefully first responders could help, but we never had to test the system. She had a manual wheelchair that worked well in her home after some furniture rearranging. And our town had excellent bus service that accommodated wheelchairs. - MargyReplyDelete
Shops here go to great lengths to make access possible - they are required to do so by law - but then do silly things like stacking goods in the aisles. We even discovered that a large superstore near here had no proper fire escape from its café - luckily it was only a fire drill.ReplyDelete
Freedom of movement for most everyone is a natural thing and it's not something thought about each day until one suddenly looses either part or all of that freedom. Aging reduces that freedom as well but at a slower pace. Having driven wheelchair vehicles I've been aware of some of those things you mentioned when I've had to take wheelchair folks in and out of buildings or along sidewalks and parking lots. I think until a person finds themselves in an unfortunate position like yourself it's hard to imagine all the unthought of difficultiesReplyDelete
This is a real education issues, isn't it? Your chair is amazing, but not succinct, is it?ReplyDelete
We have a lot of people in our small town using wheelchairs.
I remember, in Bala, mom and dad ordering dinner by phone, driving 2km into town, and the restaurant owner bringing it out to the car. Dad couldn't drive due to his brain tumour. Mom hadn't driven in 30 years. We adapt, if we can, don't we?
I knew most of this, but this was a good reminder. YOu have a great attitude for all the compromises you must now make. What is great is that you are not slowing down!ReplyDelete
I still have scraped cedar walls in the downstairs bathroom from my daughters wheelchair. She was Barely able to get her chair through the doors but at least the bathroom had lots of space to maneuver once she was in. Your post made me think of our local library. I am going to talk to them when I'm in there today as there ARE issues with couple of aisles. The middle aisle (it's a tiny library) is plenty wide, but they have a table with a chess board and two big arm chairs in the middle of it, which would certainly impede movement for anyone in a chair.ReplyDelete
You are doing a great job of pointing the problems you face as a person with a Disability. Too bad people who are responsible for designing things on your behalf are not aware of those issues.ReplyDelete
Glad you are still keeping a positive outlook on Life because Mrs. FG needs that as well.
Be Safe and Enjoy!
It's about time.
Many things to considered that walking people just don't think about.ReplyDelete
Keep recording in your blog the obstacles you encounter as well as the venues with safe and good access - have you in the past written articles for publishing?ReplyDelete
good to read all that info, gets us thinking!ReplyDelete