Everyone sees those blue wheelchair accessible signs in the windows of stores and restaurants. But what does wheelchair accessible actually mean? To me, wheelchair accessible means being able to get around easily in my wheelchair, without bringing attention to myself. But many stores don’t fit my definition of handicapped accessible, even though they have the blue sign in the window. I am always faced with the obstacle of moving a box out of the way, or asking someone to move a rack of clothing in a store. It is demoralizing and embarrassing to ask for help, when you should be able to do it by yourself. I have a unique situation; I have been able to see this from both points of view. Before I was wheelchair bound, I never once thought about how hard it must be for someone who is in a wheelchair to get around stores. I never realized how close the racks are to each other, or how small elevators can be. All stores in the United States by law have to be “handicapped accessible,” but many places take the motto “we’ll move anything out of your way, just ask.” Instead of just already having it moved to a better place. They don’t realize how frustrating that can be for someone who has had so much taken away from them, and now, going into a store takes away some of their dignity also.
March 12, 2008