Just like everyone else I have a great respect for anyone who has to live their live with a wheelchair. But since a recent trip to Auckland, that has increased hugely. Two days in a wheelchair and I was turned into a stroppy annoyed person. I was fed up of the restrictions put on me. I was fed up of people in the street almost standing on me because they did not notice me, or expecting me to get out of their way. Off having to be parked outside shops because I could not get in to the shop, though I must say the shops in Devonport were great at letting my hubbie bring things out for me to see. Off being unable to cross the road to get to the shops I wanted to visit. Off ending up like a bit of a shopping trolley.
We all think that the recent changes to increase access and mobility for disabled people are a great leap forward. And I am sure they are. But when you are actually stuck in that chair, the reality is not that good. Take for one thing pavements and the lowered kerbs to enable access to cross the road for wheelchairs. Good idea, until you actually look at them. The ones that I encountered were frequently cracked or steep or unlevel or all three. I was almost tipped out of the wheel chair on a number of occasions. Now maybe there is a knack to getting over roads, but I could never have managed with out my family. My independence was removed from me, and I hate it.
Disabled toilets, great you might think, there are lots of them all over the place. Again there are major problems. Two main things - First of all heavy doors, if you are on your own, how do you open a heavy door while in a wheelchair. And all disabled toilets seem to have them, apart from Snow Planet. I either had to drag a family member with me or stagger around on my crutches trying to open the door, stay upright and push my wheelchair through. I have the choice of using crutches, others don't. Again a loss of independence. Secondly, the level of cleanliness! McDonald's in Huntley were using the disabled toilet as a gents toilet, because the gent's toilets were out of use. It was yuk.
I am a lucky person, in six weeks time I will have my mobility and independence back, others won't. I think what I am trying to say is that all of us should be pushing at every oppertunity to make it easier for everyone to get around, for everyone to have their independence. Not to assist people, but to put in place the facilities so that those of us that have to use wheelchairs can do everything that the rest can do, without assisstance. And not just because it might one day be us, but because for some it is already that day and things need to be changed now.
Oh and if anyone can tell me, politely, just where you put your crutches when you are using the wheel chair? Roll on the next five weeks.