Sunday, October 12, 2014

A mile in her wheels

I was trying to figure out what to write about today for Spina Bifida awareness and it hit me... 

What does Clara deal with right now on a daily basis? What have we had some of the biggest hurdles dealing with?

Many people born with Spina bifida are wheelchair (and other assistive devices) users and accessibility is of major importance to them. Currently, Kevin and I are trying to figure out how to best afford/do/make happen the accessibility changes we need to make...remodeling the house, adjustments to the van and changes to our yard. We constantly think about how to find activities that are accessible for Clara. We started petitioning the elementary school 3 years ago to make the playground accessible and we are just now seeing that progress, but it is progress. 
It is always on OUR mind, but I think the majority of the population never even sees or maybe they "can't" see the challenges of access. Not that people don't want to, they just CAN'T. 

They don't understand. 

Disclaimer (before starting in on limitations of wheelchairs): 

Most people know that wheelchairs don't do stairs well. Wheelchairs don't get thinner to squeeze through small areas. Standard wheelchairs are typically propelled by the arms of the user sometimes little kid arms or arms with low tone. Wheelchair users, especially the younger ones, who still have their anti-tip rollers struggle with lips on curbs or entrance ways. You can't see or truly understand the barriers to access until you have to use (or help someone use) a wheelchair. A lip on a sidewalk no higher than 2 inches will stop Clara in her tracks, gravel areas where there should be pavement is tough to navigate, doors that open the wrong way and the list goes on. You should try it someday, try to see these small things and understand how these small things can be huge barriers.  

These "little things" are huge to wheelchair users, so there have been regulations passed that require businesses to comply with access issues. The regulations have specific rules, for example: degree of incline of ramps, width of doorways, landings on ramps, curb ramps, parking spaces, etc. 

Still many areas/places don't comply. Here are a few examples...

"Oh, this is perfect! My wheelchair can do some steps, but just not all of them."
"80 degree incline? Challenge accepted!"

"Hey Joe, just paint the ramp blue and put a wheelchair symbol on it. This is the easiest job ever!"

So these examples look pretty much intentionally inaccessible. A "let's make it look like we tried, it doesn't really matter" effort. This is completely unacceptable. 


What I think is even worse is when a business/church/school has made their facility, parking lot, building accessible and some asshat (pardon the language- I actually looked for a synonym that would express this and couldn't find one) decides that the accommodations are not truly needed. 

This was at a local drug store the other day. Did you know if you have a huge exhaust pipe in the bed of your truck you can park wherever you want?

3 handicap accessible parking spots being used by 3 vehicles without placards.
"I just have to run in real quick"

or this image from
This is not a parking spot. This space is reserved for people to deploy ramps and be able to maneuver between cars with their wheelchairs.

It is never okay. Never okay to assume your needs are greater than those that these spots are reserved for. Even if it is "just real quick". Stop it all you stupid, selfish people!

If you have some time to even watch the beginning of this program, I recommend it. Plus, there are English accents which are always so fun.

I know many people just don't know. They haven't had the opportunity to truly see the struggles with accessibility, but trust me they exist. They impact Clara everyday. 

Join us in the push for accessibility.

I am not asking you to key the cars of idiots who illegally park (although if it happens...) 

What I am asking you is, don't be this person. If one of your friends does this, give them a little 

"Feedback Sandwich"

"Hey Friend! Your car looks really shiny today. You are a real loser for parking it in that handicapped spot. Your tires look good without slits in them."

We shouldn't have to beg for accessibility, but above all we shouldn't have to beg for people to respect the accessibility that is in place.