Whenever someone tells me that something OR somewhere is disability friendly I take this with a grain of salt… In fact it is more likely that I will completely ignore it until I hear it from someone who actually HAS a disability OR see it for myself.
The term to me means that there is a ramp somewhere near the building and there are some toilets with a blue wheelchair sticker on it. But that is the limit to how accessible or disability friendly they truly are.
Going anywhere is still a huge struggle and going somewhere for the first time in a wheelchair is the stuff of nightmares.
My own specialists. Yes. My OWN doctors office has a car park with NO ramp
My hubby has to lift me down the two steps to leave the car park. The lift is so small that once I am in it there is JUST enough room for my husband or we would have no way out. Sometimes he has had to straddle my chair to get into the elevator!!
Once at the building to my specialists it is a matter of pushing me up a 30 degree incline and two 70 degree turns. Try doing this with say a trolley full of groceries and you will start to imagine the pain involved.
Once inside, and several minutes of deep breathing for hubby, we face the three elevators that are the size of a tissue box. I can’t press the button for him because the button is placed beyond the reach of anyone in a chair. The door opens on the end lift and by the time he can push me there it’s closed again… And repeat…
If we are lucky to get the closest lift then it only has barely enough room for two caged insects, let alone a chair and a carer. Hubby must jam me hard against the back of the lift so that my legs are squashed while we go to the upper levels of the building… And then the lift stops and someone decides they are going to push in.. I am frowned at for taking up so much room and so I stare down at my aching and squashed legs so I can’t see their rudeness as I prepare mentally for my visit and discussion. I am already feeling unwanted and an inconvenience and I haven’t seen my doctor yet …
We arrive just on time and are told that there is a 45 minute wait. Great! That’s good for a doctor these days! Sometimes I have waited up to 2 hours in my wheelchair. Sore. Stiff. Aching. Tired. And then I paid $520 for the pleasure.
Damn! I need the toilet!!
If you have MS or any neuro issues, you have about 5 seconds from feeling like you need to pee and realizing you are too late! People like me HAVE to wear depends anytime you go anywhere new or you will face the shame and discomfort of sitting in a wet seat for hours and vowing never to leave your home again…
Off to the toilet!!! Now!!!!
The ONLY number of disabled toilets that any building is required to have is one AND ; and this one is on the bottom floor.
What goes up… Must go down again… (Sigh)
The DISABILITY toilet is a blog on its own, but for brevity sake I shall just say that this inconveniently located wardrobe is also facing a wall of mailboxes and paraphernalia which makes it impossible to completely open AND it is also doubles as the only ladies toilet. My husband MUST assist me so we brace ourselves for the myriad of reactions we can get, ranging from shock, horror, indignation to completely invisible.
One woman continued to block the entrance whilst adjusting her bangs while we were expected to wait until she was ready to move… After battling the disabled toilet… You guessed it…
Back we go!!!
Despite the fact that over 30% of patients have a wheelchair or walking aid my specialists offices have a long, narrow corridor and several mats running the length of the rooms which makes walking, pushing, steering with a device the equivalent of push starting a submarine through an ice flow! It doesn’t bode well for the level of understanding you will get once inside the room.
Disability friendly are nice worlds. Able bodied people like to say them, but they have no real meaning. It also looks nice on a floor plan but unless you have ever been in a chair or impaired in any way whatsoever, they are merely words!
I recall the amount of people I have witnessed falling down a step while leaving a pub. They were not disabled. They were not handicapped and they still couldn’t walk down ONE step. These are the same people who haven’t the vaguest sense of why I need a Carpark next the entrance of a building and why I need a tiny bit of consideration when going somewhere. I can remember my husband being yelled at by a mother with a pram for taking a spot she felt she was more deserving of… Even though she might have chose to be a mother and I didn’t choose to be unable to walk!
Most disabled people rarely go anywhere for many of these reasons. I, personally, hate going most places and tend to go to places that I KNOW to be ok, otherwise I sit in the car the entire time… Which is usually the case.
Disability friendly will never really mean anything until it stops being merely a sign on the wall and becomes a way of thinking and acting towards people who have been dealt some very difficult challenges indeed.
Let’s help make the changes possible 😃