Accessibility for Wheelchair Users
Last year, my eyes were opened to high-needs disabilities when I moved out of my home and into a shared living situation with in-home care around-the-clock.
It became obvious to me over time how difficult it was for the other residents to get around in public spaces. You see, in our society, “wheelchair accessible” is not an all-inclusive term.
I learned this the hard way when I was out one day seeing a movie with a carer. I really needed to use the “wheelchair accessible” toilet at the cinema. The carer wasn’t able to transfer me onto the toilet without a hoist to take my body weight. Most public “wheelchair accessible” toilets do not provide hoists, only railings. It meant I had to hold onto my bladder until I reached the safety of my own home.
It got me thinking about the other residents where I was, and how they felt not being able to access a basic utility that most of us take for granted. It seems wrong to me that people with high-needs are marginalized like this, especially when I know that a lot of disabilities include bladder urgency.
It is yet another example that not all disabilities are the same, and yet we are treated like we are by so many. It makes one question whether something is really “wheelchair accessible” or if it’s only “accessible for certain wheelchair users.”
I have traveled both domestically and internationally, and the lack of accessibility for wheelchair users is quite apparent. Most airports are accessible for all kinds of disability, but a lot of planes are not — your problems really begin before you reach your destination. My experiences on planes pale in comparison to the horror stories I’ve heard from friends who have had to drag themselves onboard with no aisle wheelchair being available.
Inaccessibility is everywhere. Some countries are better than others, but even these have problems with accessibility. We need things as simple as a ramp or a pool hoist to make it easier to go in the pool when you’re on holidays, an elevator to get you where you want to go, an accessible toilet, smooth pathways, wide entrances, or modified vehicles. Traveling would be a lot easier and a lot more common for wheelchair users if we had these accommodations.
I travel for the same reason that most people do — I love seeing new countries and experiencing different cultures. Unfortunately, I can’t do it as often as I’d like, one of the main reasons being how hard it is on me, and whomever I’m with, to get around.
In order for our society to have equal access for all, there needs to be recognition of all kinds of disability, including the different types of wheelchair users. We can help by educating as many as possible about our conditions.
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