Let’s Go for a Walk

walk2

As I think I mentioned in another article, the thing that bothered me the most about last summer’s pandemic reality was not being able to walk and go outside. There were stairs all around my building, so I couldn’t leave easily, and while I could take my car to go somewhere … where would I go? Everything was closed, so it’s not even like I could go to the bathroom if I needed it. So staying on my balcony all summer it was.

But this summer,

I was living in a new building with a ramp, and there is a park about half a block from my building where I could go hang out and read in the sunlight and fresh air. I rented a wheelchair for the season, thinking that in no time I’d be wheeling myself around the neighborhood, enjoying the summer I’d missed last year.

Ha! No. Did you know wheelchairing is hard? I mean physically, of course, though that was the easy part. I already had strong arms, and I’ve been using wheelchairs occasionally for years, so I know how to maneuver. Except the times I used wheelchairs were inside buildings, or on carefully curated paths. I’m sure you’ll be surprised to learn that in real life, cities and sidewalks are not made with disabled people in mind. Shocking, I know.

Let me take you on a little picture tour of the obstacle course between my building and the park

walk - blog image


My building is at the bottom left. I walk half a block, cross the street at #2, cross the parking lot (smoother than the sidewalk), then cross the other small street into the park at the bottom right. And somebody has to push me half the way because I can’t manage it on my own (yet, at least). You’ll soon see why.

walk - blog image


(1) As I said, there is a ramp to exit my building. Having a ramp is good. Having a smooth ramp without a crack that threatens to pitch me out of my chair every time I go over it would be better, though.

walk - blog image


And occasionally along that sidewalk we encounter jack*sses who think curb cuts are made for parking, and we have to go in the street.

walk - blog image


(2) I didn’t photograph every curb cut on the way

But they all look the same: the rough edge of a lowered sidewalk connecting the best it can with a poorly maintained road, with dirt and potholes and plants growing in the cracks. Always fun to have to turn the chair backward to go up the sidewalk safely while cars are waiting for you to get the heck out of the way.

walk - blog image


(3) At this one, I have two choices: turn backward, as there’s no way the little front wheels of the chair can handle that crack-step combo; or turn, go in the grass, and avoid it completely.

And remember, I’m only going this way because the sidewalk next to the street is even worse!

walk


(4) This. What even is this?

Going down it is fine (as long as you aim for the actual incline), but going back up on the way back? Even ignoring the fact that it’s in such poor repair half of it is literally gravel, what’s with the placement? Do you want people in wheelchairs to start going up and then, while still on the incline, make a sharp 90° turn to the left? Did you not consult any disabled users before building this?

Lol, what am I saying, of course you didn’t.

walk - blog image


(5) *Sigh* It’s like they’re not even trying.

Which, you know, they probably aren’t, actually. It’s all well and good for cars leaving the parking lot. Their wheels can go over these huge cracks like they’re nothing. But me? From left to right, I basically go fast and close my eyes. Hoping my wheels don’t get stuck and flip me over. From right to left, I hope no car hits me as I carefully pick a spot to make my attempt.

walk


(6) Just another shining example of a St-Lambert curb cut.

walk - blog image


(7) The final bit of sidewalk. When I visited the old Panama City in a wheelchair, the sidewalks were better maintained than this. Just sayin’.

walk


As a bonus, here is what I circled on the map above, the exit from another parking lot. You can see the curb cut on the left, and the pedestrian crossing on the right … starting from the full sidewalk. Was it too hard to keep the curb cut going a few more feet, or make another one, or move the crossing? Nice accessibility fails there, St-Lambert.

Do you know what I wish?

I wish architects, civil engineers, and anyone who has anything to do with constructions used by the public would put themselves in our shoes. Spend a day—nay, even a couple of hours would do it! In a wheelchair, with a walker, crutches, a blindfold, and a white cane. Then navigate around the infrastructure. Then have a long think about what you need to fix and what you can do better next time.

People often don’t notice a problem until it becomes one for them personally. Either on purpose because of laziness or ignorance. So we need to find ways to make things that affect us be personal for them too. Otherwise, nothing will ever get fixed.

Share your thoughts and/or comments and join our community today.  A place where we empower you to build a healthy lifestyle and raise overdue Ataxia Awareness.  Experience transformative storytelling and share your story for inspiring positive change.


Related Posts

Leave a Reply

My New Stories

Ataxia Patient Registry
Relaxing Evening
Yesenia Ramos Journey
wheelchairs are not embarrassing
Respect for Mobility Aids
Neurofeedback-therapy-ataxia-michaelmantz
Mary
TBI