Disabled Access… really?

A few years ago, Ma started to struggle with her walking.  Every step was pain with bone grinding on bone.  Dad’s faithfull ‘wheely walker’ named, Cyril, became her means of getting around the house.  I bought her a horn so she could warn the cats to get out of the way and it became quite a talking point wherever she went.  Nobody can resist honking a horn!  He even came in handy when she was in hospital and couldn’t reach her buzzer, to get the nurses.

Around 6 years ago I tried to convince Ma it was time to get a wheelchair for when we went out. If we went out shopping she would only make it a few metres before it got too much for her, yet slow as she was, she persevered.

I then finished my degree and my graduation was in Orange.  I told Ma that I wouldn’t go to my graduation unless she was there.  I impressed on her that although it was giving up some of her independence it would mean that she would get to see and do more because the wheelchair could take her places that her legs could no longer take her to.  So, we purchased her wheelchair and every time we go out the wheelchair is her means of getting around.

I have lost count of the number of places that call themselves wheelchair accessible, but aren’t.  My pet hate are the specialists that are in heritage houses.  They usually have makeshift ramps that are never flush so it’s a big heave to get her over the ‘lip’.  The halls and doorways are all narrow so that I have to lift the wheelchair around corners (or maybe I’m just a bad driver).

There are only a few local restaurants I can take her to in our area.  I remember taking her to a restaurant that said they had a disabled toilet.  When I arrived they had put us downstairs and the disabled toilet was blocked off because they were having a function and the tables were across the access.

I’ve gotten quite good at manoeuvring over the years.  I’ve found that the best way with a wheelchair is to go backwards. My other pet hate are the shops that think it’s ok to pile stuff in aisleways so that there is no way you can get a wheelchair there.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to leave a shop because I can’t get Ma where she wants to go.  Sadly it’s more common than what I’d like.  A lack of thought and planning, I’m sure mothers with prams experience a similar thing.

My biggest, most HATED thing though is the ignorant, arrogant barstool that thinks it’s perfectly ok to park in a disabled spot when they aren’t disabled.  I have had to take Ma home on more than one occasion because the last disabled spot was taken by a car with no disabled sticker.  I usually try and find a double car space so I can at least get Ma into her chair but sometimes that’s not possible.

Surprisingly, hospitals are the places that seem to lack adequate disabled spots.  The ground floor of parking stations have disabled spots but the other 8 floors do not, so again you search for a double spot.  I always allow myself extra time at hospitals because I know there will usually be a problem with parking.

The best thing about Ma’s wheelchair is she gets to go places now that she wouldn’t have been able to access with her walker.  This gives her more independence and makes life just that little bit better.  She’s very good at telling me I go too fast and where she wants to go.

Tips:

  • Getting a walker or wheelchair is a massive step for your loved one.  It’s just another thing that mean’s, “I’m losing my mobility”.  Make it a positive.  Ma can now access places she couldn’t before.  My Dad found himself useful again because ‘Cyril’ would carry the shopping into the house.
  • Always allow extra time to find disabled parking and for assembling mobility apparatus.
  • Purchase a good pressure relieving cushion for the wheelchair.
  • Make sure you label all mobility equipment, especially in hospitals.
  • When making appointments or going to new places make sure you ask about disabled access it saves you a headache when you arrive at your destination.
  • Some hotels have disabled rooms suitable for wheelchairs and other mobility equipment.
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