Thank goodness for all the kind Samaritans who help out whenever I go out with my wheelchair. Even with my sister there helping, you realize that the world is so not catered to wheelchair users. We took a trip through to Glasgow to visit a few shops and go to the cinema–it was so odd being back there, in a way like I still lived there and in a way like it was completely different! We took the train, and at least there there were lifts to get up to the footbridges and down again, although it does require somewhat of a detour. On the train, there were two lovely guys who gave us their seat and made sure the wheelchair was secure for the journey; they were very happy to help us off when we got there too, but we didn’t need it so much as I usually just jump up and use my sticks to get on and off transport as it’s easier.
Although I can’t manage for long, when I’m in stores, I like to wheel myself about and just go off on my own for a bit. Outside though, I go so slowly that I really do need my sister to push me; the problem is that she is small in height and weighs less than I do, so it can be a bit of a struggle for her to go up hills for example–and I usually get out and go up the hill on my sticks if I can! Of course the solution to this is that she gets fitter or I get someone stronger to accompany me! It’s a bit of a double-edged sword with using the chair, I think; on one hand, it’s amazing and it means I can get out more and not overexert, but I feel bad for being quite the inconvenience–getting the chair in and out of the car is a pain, having to detach and reattach the feet; having my sister have to exert herself so much to get me around. Also, as I think I mentioned before, there’s a process of getting into that mindset of being comfortable when people go out of their way to help you. It feels good that people are helpful, but there’s a bit of guilt and embarrassment that I don’t want to cause a scene, which I know is ridiculous, because I personally don’t feel put-out at all to help a wheelchair user.
The cinema was a bit of a pain. Although it’s the tallest cinema in the world, the lift was frustratingly tiny! In the actual theater, there was a wheelchair space, but it’s naturally way down at the bottom, and I just couldn’t have sat there and craned my neck up for the whole movie. I don’t know how they could better allow wheelchair access to the upper rows, though–as usual, I went up on my sticks, leaving my wheelchair in the wheelchair space. But the biggest problem–the toilet! The disabled toilet had a long thin hallway-kind of bit after you go in the door, a bit like my bedroom at home, which was fine on the way in, but coming out with the chair was a nightmare. The hallway section was barely wide enough to fit my chair, so I could only approach the door head-on, and it meant that when I grabbed the bar of the door with one hand, I was quite stuck. If I use only one wheel on my chair, then it turns rather than going backwards, but I needed the other hand to hold the door! After managing to scoot back somehow, I lost grip of the door. I was getting ready to pull the alarm cord, seriously. (My sister had joked before I went in that I should take my phone just in case, even though I’ve had no problems with getting stuck in toilets before. :P) I had to hurt myself quite a bit to get out. There would have been no issue if there was a wider space around the door instead of this thin corridor. I mean to write to them about it.
We popped into Mcdonalds for a bite to eat before heading home. Of course this was another issue, with there barely being any space to move anyway. The one we usually go to in Perth is fairly roomy, but this was in the town among the other shops and really wasn’t. We did fold it up and store it as close to our table as possible, but it still meant people had to struggle past. Again, not too bad for me because I got out with the sticks and sat at the table, but I was thinking all the time, what for the people who can’t? They had made the accommodation with the automatic button for the outside doors for wheelchair users, but I guess not really thought beyond that enough. Wheelchair users staying in their chair would simply have to block up the aisles.
On the train back, they were very helpful, very ready with the ramp this time and taking note of where we were getting off to help us then. There was already a wheelchair user on the section, meaning there wasn’t much room for me, which was fine because I simply got out again and sat in a seat. But then there was the issue of where to put the chair–I ended up having to tie it up in the bicycle section. We commiserated a bit with the woman who was already there.
At least in Glasgow, most of the kerb edges actually have flat edges where you can go up! Here in Perth, most of the parts of the kerb that come down are still quite a bump that we struggle up them; if I were on my own, I would never be able to get up them. Makes a bit hard to even cross the roads if there’s no way to get yourself onto the next pavement! There have been sections with such a bump, that other people have had to come along and help us. The council had to make these “flat” areas when they did the paving anyway; I wonder how much trouble it would have been to actually make them flush with the ground. Not much, I’d say. I think I’m going to write to my local paper about it.
I’m happy that so many aids are already in place and strangers on the street have been so kind and helpful, but it’s not enough. I feel like the world makes a few accommodations and then says, “That’ll do. We accommodated for the disabled.” It feels like we just don’t factor into consideration fully for things, like paving the kerbs flat. Making the world accessible for wheelchair users doesn’t really affect the able-bodied, which is the annoying thing. It doesn’t affect them badly to have alternative arrangements in place for us. Too often, it feels that accommodations for the disabled are an afterthought. Part of it is me adjusting to a lot of it, I think, but so much is simply that the accommodations aren’t there in the first place; even people who have been in chairs for a long time struggle. I’ve heard it said that having the disability doesn’t disable you, but the treatment by society does, and in many ways this is true. If the accommodations are in place, there’s no reason why we can’t have outings and do errands, etc., just the same. Yes, life can be hard, but councils and establishments and so on could do more to make sure it’s less of a struggle.