Rolling Without Limits

Your mobility may be limited. Your voice, boundless.

Are You Wheelchair Accessible?
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Are You Wheelchair Accessible?

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.

Leave a Comment

  1. SignLanguage
    As a sign language interpreter, I've had to learn what it is like to be blindfolded AND with earplugs in. You can still hear a bit, but talking is almost incomprehensible and downtown traffic sounds like a permanent buzz. Or, I've had a Deaf friend tell me to take an empty vegetable soup can - the larger ones - and cover my ear with it. That's what Deaf people hear and trust me, it's awful. Trying out the wheelchair option would be interesting as well. I want to know what it's like to spend a day in the shoes of other people because I want to know how things are when you don't fit in the 'normal' mould. I want to understand and I want to make the world a better place to live in. Voted! When you have the chance, check out my article, Those Darned Interpreters, and vote if you like it.
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    1. jkhorne57
      jkhorne57
      I am very familiar with hearing loss, as I have permanent hearing loss due to being around jet fighters for 20 years. Sometimes there is an audible (to me anyway) click and then it sounds like a smoke alarm going off in the distance. The "alarm" is always there, sometimes it is very faint and other times it isvery loud. I have lost the ability to hear high pitches like alarms on watches, and I don't even hear my alarm clock until I turn my head a certain way. Thankfully I have hearing aids. It is hard to get people to understand that they can talk as loud as they want to and it doesn't help. It's not the volume I have trouble with, it is the sounds. Or as one doctor told me, the frequencies I have lost are the same ones that a woman's voice hits when she gets mad, so the madder my wife gets at me, the less I can understand her, which makes it worse. Thanks for you comment, and I will take a look at yours.
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      1. SignLanguage
        I'm sorry, I have to admit that I laughed about your problem with your wife. It's just too common for those with hearing loss to have problems when they argue, and they often make jokes out of it. That buzzing sound you get could eventually become permanent... I've heard ot that type of deafness, but never actually worked with anyone who has it. It's not the same thing as having a 90db hearing loss, which is what I deal with mostly. Anyways, thanks for the vote!
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  2. pftsusan
    pftsusan
    I'm vote #5. The biggest of all these crimes that I think all of us do, including me is that we use the public handicapped stalls in the bathrooms for the space.I've also witnessed real fights over this very thing.
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    1. Lori Emmons
      Lori Emmons
      Yeah! Please don't do this as many of us (challenged) can't use the other stalls. Thanks for educating others.
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      1. pftsusan
        pftsusan
        I stopped this behavior over two years ago to leave these stalls open for the people who could use them.
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  3. Lori Emmons
    Lori Emmons
    I used to always let this type of thing upset me & it's still a big issue. However, I have to realize that being selfish & inconsiderate like this is the worst type of disability there is & I had to stop letting the ignorance of some steal my joy. I definitely could have written this article myself! Great job!
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