A Day in the Life of a Powerchair UserBy Shona Louise -
About 2 years ago my genetic connective tissue disorder, Marfan Syndrome, meant that I had to start using a wheelchair. The wheelchair was being used for times when I needed to stand or walk for a while. Since then, I've now changed to using a powerchair outside of the house.
Up until this point, family members pushed my manual wheelchair. So whilst I was more than aware of the accessibility issues that disabled people face, it often wasn't directly my problem. For example, I wasn't the one that had to get my wheelchair up a step if there was no dropped curb. However, now that I use a powerchair and I'm independently mobile, I'm seeing these problems from a different perspective.
The day I got my powerchair, I immediately came across one problem. A wheelchair accessible door, as defined by the local council, was not suitable for my powerchair. Luckily, the door is just wide enough to fit through but the floor is not completely flat. Until we made some adjustments ourselves it took me about 3 or 4 attempts to get inside the house. The council claimed it was wheelchair accessible as it seemed that they had overlooked the fact that just one small bump could be such a barrier when using a wheelchair.
The main thing that I find frustrating is dropped curbs. People blocking one, the absence of one, or it still being too high for my powerchair to manage. The photo below is from a recent trip I took to the local shops. Everything was going smoothly until I saw that there was no dropped curb to allow me to cross the road and not even a path on the other side. I had to go all the way to the top of the road to find somewhere to cross and then all the way back down just to get to where I wanted to go.
Things I Wish I Knew Before Using a Wheelchair
It might not sound like a huge inconvenience but it frustrates me that I have to add on a few extra minutes to my journey just because I get around in a different way to most people.
Only a few of the local shops that I was travelling to were wheelchair/powerchair accessible - whilst there are about 20 small shops, only about 5 of them have step free access. A few have signs saying that if you are disabled and need assistance there is help available. However, I feel uncomfortable knowing that this probably means I'll have to sit outside the shop whilst they get me what I need. Not even my local pharmacy is wheelchair accessible.
It really does amaze me that in 2016 wheelchair users are still faced with so many obstacles even when doing the simplest of things and everyday tasks. Just a bump in the pavement or a car parked in front of, or on, a dropped curb can make a big difference to our journey.
These were problems that I have faced when just going out for half an hour to get some bread... I live close to London but I feel as though there are so many access problems in the city that I currently have no plans to go there in my powerchair. There are so many places I would love to go but sometimes it just isn't possible or feels like it would be too much of a hassle.
Hopefully over the years, further changes will be made in my local area and in London in order to accommodate for wheelchair and powerchair users. I look forward to the day when myself and other powerchair users won't need to think twice before leaving the house.
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