We see the words that say Handicapped Accessible and most people don't even give them a second thought. We see the wheelchair ramps and we even press the square buttons with the wheelchair logo on them so the doors will open for us, but are we really wheelchair accessible ourselves?
I spent two weeks in a wheelchair after surgery and I thought I had a rough time. Then I married a woman who had a teenage son who had never walked. He is now thirty years old and has spent his entire life confined to a wheelchair. Over the last fifteen years that I have known him, I have also had my eyes opened up to just how blind our society is in general to handicapped people.
Have you ever parked in a handicapped space, or sat in the car and waited "just for a minute" while your passenger runs into the store? We have had that happen several times; or worse yet we have come out of a store only to find a vehicle parked in the striped area, and we were unable to get my son into the van until that person returns.
You do not give much thought to doorways and aisle widths, but I do. After going through a store with my son, I find myself looking at the displays and wondering how a person with limited mobility could ever navigate through the maze.
We have been told by the governor of our state that wheelchair ramps are for the convenience of the family and they are not really necessary for the person in the chair. When we challenged him to spend just one day in a chair, he responded that he did not have the time.
That challenge remains open to any politician at any level of government that is brave enough to take it. Spend twenty four hours in a manual wheelchair, without your personal aides, and see some of the handicaps that we impose on the handicapped.
My son also has a service dog that goes with him. The dog has been trained to pick things up, to turn lights on/off, and to brace for my son to get in and out of the chair. The fact that he has a dog has resulted in several unpleasant incidents.
At a large discount store in Tacoma, we were told by an armed security guard that the dog was not allowed in the store. Luckily the store manager intervened and the guard was educated on the policy. We left and my wife called to complain to the owner, but the guard intercepted that message and we were told not to come back and that he knew where we lived.
At a restaurant in Camas, I went in first to see if they had a table large enough to seat five adults. I also told them about the service dog. They had a large table, but as I was getting back to the van, they sent the dishwasher out to ask us if they could bring the food out to us so the dog and wheelchair would not upset their customers.
I find myself looking closer when I see a handicapped accessible sign. I try to imagine myself in a wheelchair and wonder if I could get into the store or down an aisle.
I wonder how many people slow down enough to do the same thing.