What are your assumptions when it comes to how accessible businesses are for the disabled? Before I got hurt and had issues with my mobility I thought that handicap access was abundant. I would see the four handicap parking spots at the front of the mall, see the electric scooters strolling around and see the only empty stall in the bathroom was handicapped accessible. Sadly I was mistaken. Although you see what looks like businesses following ADA guidelines they are compliant does not mean they are handicap convenient.
After an accident in which my son helped break my leg with a sled I quickly learned how inconvenient living in our society with a disability was. I always assumed that seeing a handicap ramp outside of a business meant that I would enter and access would be unlimited however I learned that is not the truth. When I had to use a wheelchair I found the handicap ramps convenient. However when I moved onto my walker I realized that really handicap ramps were put off to the side and no in direct proportion with the entrance. I couldn’t believe how inconvenient I was finding out life was with a disability.
My concerns did not stop there. At grocery stores the electric scooters were all located at the front of the store which was excellent. I could leave my walker where the scooter was and went about my business. The mall however was a completely different story. The electric scooter I needed was in the middle of the mall and not at all convenient for me to maneuver to using my walker. By the time I reached the counter my stamina was depleted and I was ready to be done with this trip to the mall. You would think that in this day and age business owners would realize the importance of making shopping convenient for those that were elderly and/or disabled. The population of older clients is rising and businesses need to meet their needs in order to attract their business.
Another thing was how merchandise was displayed. I found that it was very difficult to maneuver around the racks without leaving disarray where ever I went. One trip in particular was difficult. I was with my daughter and we were trying on clothes for a wedding we were to attend. Wheelchair access in dressing rooms is a joke. The amount of room they give you to maneuver is minimal. It was easier for me to order online, try the stuff on in my home and have my spouse take back what I did not want. Is this really how our civilized society wants those with mobility difficulties to feel when they are out?
My limited mobility lasted for only three months. For that I am incredibly grateful. Those three months were an eye opener for my family and I. We don’t take pity on those with disabilities or handicapped needs but are more compassionate to their needs. It is important that we learn that handicap access goes far beyond parking issues, bathrooms and steps. It is important for our society to look at things from different perspectives to really see what types of needs aren’t being met for individuals with disabilities. I never wanted anyone to wait on me. I wanted to be independent and fend for myself I just needed that to be possible and what I experienced made me realize that access goes well beyond a handicap ramp.