Saturday, March 17, 2012

From Dependence to Independence (Part 2)

This is the second half of Mom's paper "From Dependence to Independence." Part 1 is here. It's also along the same lines as Mom's "Is This Your Town?" paper. Both are from the early 1970s and touch on the problems someone with a disability faced getting around then.

In this part, Mom talks about traveling with a disability. The photo is of Mom and us traveling in Wall, S.D. in 1980.

What about the wheelchair vacationer? What is the best way to travel? By car? If you overcome the parking problem you have it made. Oh yes, you have to be sure that motel or hotel you stop at overnight has few steps and better check that restroom. You know from experience that most restrooms have doors much too small for easy access. Better check your favorite restaurant. Can you get around in there without too much difficulty?

You might as well forget about traveling by bus. An airplane is difficult, but not impossible in the larger airports with the walk-on ramps, etc. Most airlines do all they can to help you. Airplane travel is much more expensive, however.

Have you considered your favorite vacation spot or tourist attraction? Will you be able to see it, or will you be barred at the doorway? A good example is the flights of steps approaching our nation's Capitol Building.

While we are talking about recreation, consider your hometown theater. In a wheelchair, where would you sit? Aisle seating is prohibited because it is a fire hazard. All too often you end up sitting way up front. How simple it would be to have a few removable seats in the center isle, so your wheelchair can slip easily in place with your friends sitting next to you.

There are many handicapped housewives. Have you ever tried washing dishes from a sitting position? Usually the sink and cupboards are much too high. It is difficult to reach that back burner or into that oven with its door opening to the front.

A few common obstacles that the handicapped run into every day are: drinking fountains too high, restrooms too small, doors of stores and public buildings much too heavy (revolving doors are impossible), floors too slick for the one on crutches, displays of merchandise either in the aisles or out of reach. All common things that the able-bodied person never thinks about; but are a hazard to the handicapped.

What about that telephone booth so common to all? How simple it would be if at the end of the row of booths, a phone was mounted on a table? You would be surprised to see how many people would use this one, as opposed to crawling into a booth.

I am not trying to solve all the problems the handicapped face. Nor am I asking for any sympathy. All I want to do is advise and further educate the "normal" public to the many problems and possible solutions for the various handicapped public. We want independence, to be able to carry on our lives in a normal fashion. To make the public aware that a problem exists is half the battle.

Try this little experiment. Walk into a room and imagine that you are blind. What problems would you encounter? If you were deaf, or in a wheelchair, or on crutches? Try the same experiment outside on the street. Make a list and no matter how long your list, I am sure there will be many you might miss.

The building barrier problem could be solved easily on the drawing board, and would not cost the taxpayer any more in the construction. I propose that these plans be reviewed by an "expert." That is, one who lives with these problems every day. Who is in a better position to know the problem of a wheelchair traveler than the person who is one?

You may think this problem does not apply to you. The fact is, almost every American will have a handicap of one kind or other in their life, that may be temporary or permanent. Be a barrier-conscious citizen. After all, who knows what is in your future.

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