There is a saying, “all things happen for a reason.” I firmly believe this is true. For the past nearly two years, I have had a medical condition that rendered me unable to go out and about without the assistance of a cane or walker. Thankfully, my issue was temporary, and I am well on my way to full mobility. Not everyone is as fortunate, however, and I would like to share what I’ve learned – things most able-bodied people never give a second thought.
First: handicapped parking. I will be the first to admit that I have used these parking spots, (just for a minute) when I wasn’t handicapped. I had no idea what a hardship this could be for someone with mobility problems. It sometimes means risking a parking spot further away or just skipping the store or restaurant altogether and going back home. The person who parked in that spot won’t even know what an inconvenience they caused for a fellow human being.
Then, there are uneven and badly cracked sidewalks. Someone using a walker must always keep their eyes on the ground to avoid pitching over the walker into a nasty headlong fall. The same is true for a door jam that is even slightly raised, and they are everywhere.
Unless it’s a medical facility or government office, the entrance doors of most restaurants and some stores (without automatic doors) are extremely heavy and when you have hands on a walker at the same time, it is difficult to pull the door open and then get around it to go inside. The same is true for public restrooms.
Shopping locally is promoted all the time and while folks who get around with a walker would love to, it is nearly impossible to maneuver around most smaller stores. The aisles are very tight. I understand the need to maximize space with as much product as possible, but it makes looking for items without knocking everything over extremely hard. Perhaps one or two employees could offer assistance to the occasional handicapped shopper. Having a place to sit for a couple of minutes also would inspire a big sigh of relief and give the shopper another chance to spend more money.
There are many more examples of this struggle; but in summary, when one has mobility issues, there are far more things to consider when going out besides what to wear. Things like: does the destination have nearby handicap parking? Even if it does, is the building entrance nearby? Are the sidewalks cleared of snow and ice? Will it be necessary to go uphill or downhill, even slightly? Are there stairs? Is there an elevator? Are the restrooms nearby? How long will I have to wait if I must stand? Is the excursion worth the effort?
So, to the public – please have a heart and offer assistance when you see a handicapped person approaching and teach your children to do the same. They will be incredibly grateful if you do. Believe me … I know!