Tag Archives: wheelchair

Access Denied

Randy McNeilCanadian Randy McNeil is my guest blogger today.

He was diagnosed with MS in 1999 and was given chemotherapy treatment, Clyclophosphamide.

After having to give up his career as an industrial millwright mechanic, he returned to college to study community justice and services. And this is where he was confronted with a new set of problems…

Wheelchair ramps – they can be the best thing. When I was still walking, I was happy to see them becoming more commonplace for people with mobility challenges. Then in 2006, MS changed my life by taking away my ability to walk. Suddenly I now had a disability and a new way of life bestowed on me.

I accepted this and got an A-4 Titanium wheelchair, started a new journey and went back to college.

Whilst there, a new building was being constructed and I thought, great, it’ll be built with a better standard of accessibility than the other buildings on the campus. In fact, it was worse. I got the construction superintendent to come over to the ramp in question and challenged him. His reply?

‘I’m not going to argue with you, it’s been passed by the building inspector.’

‘Well get into this wheelchair and show me how you can use the ramp.’

‘I can’t do that.’

‘Why?’

‘I’m not as strong as you are….’

  • Unable to get any further response, I went to the newspapers – read my story here and see for yourself the excuses they came up with!
  • After graduating, I began travelling around on public transport and discovered a problem with community accessibility – just because a bathroom has grab bars does not make it accessible. Again, I got nowhere and contacted the newspapers. This got results immediately and they changed the bathroom stall on the same day! Read about my success here.
  • Next, I took on the local mall – why should I take my life in my hands just to get there? Read what happened next.

Why stop there? I have now started a global petition to persuade Google to include an accessibility option on its worldwide maps. Please take a few seconds to add your signature.

Together we are stronger.

Tagged , , , , ,

Wheelchair-Unfriendly

wheelchairHow can a large object, weighing around 35 pounds, become magically invisible without asking Harry Potter? Easy – when it’s a wheelchair.

I met a friend for lunch and shopping on Friday. He just so happens to use a wheelchair. Cardiff has a fairly wheelchair-friendly city centre, with wide streets, accessible shops and restaurants and large, open spaces. That wasn’t the problem, it was the people.

To be fair, the shop assistants and waiters were lovely. We went to the Apple store (heaven for him, boring for me) and it was a breeze. Then Paperchase (heaven for me, incomprehensible to him- why would anyone need drawing pins shaped like ladybirds?) and it was great. We had a slight mishap in a cafe when my friend reversed into a table and knocked over a tray full of coffee cups, but those wheelchairs have a surprisingly wide turning circle.

What really annoyed me though, as we were stumbling/wheeling through town were the other pedestrians. It was soon apparent we were inconveniencing them by having the cheek to bring a wheelchair into town. There were tuts and sighs, doors left to slam in our faces, people shoving past us as if we weren’t there. It was impossible to walk/wheel side by side, so I took to pointing wildly at the general direction we were heading in, trying to keep track of where my friend was.

He was nonplussed. He’d seen it all before. He especially enjoyed watching people walk straight towards him engrossed in their mobile phones. He told me he’d taken to scanning metres ahead and had learned to weave in and out of the crowd, but it’s a lot harder to do when you’ve got someone else with you.

He just smiled wryly when I muttered ‘so RUDE’ ¬†and huffed and puffed at someone for the umpteenth time. It shocked me. I wish I had been braver and asked some of the people what their problem was. I like a good argument.

Accessibility for wheelchairs may have changed for the better, but attitudes still have a very, very long way to go.

Tagged , , , , ,