As a nurse life care planner, I frequently work with handicapped clients. However, it wasn’t until I fractured my femur, requiring the use of a walker to get around, that I realized just how difficult community access is for that population.
Using my walker to navigate the poorly engineered ramps was a challenge. The ramps were either too steep or too uneven to navigate safely. I am certain that someone using a wheelchair would have been unable to access the buildings using these ramps. Very few establishments offer electronic doors that enable independent access for disabled persons. Although the restrooms were handicap accessible, I had to ask for help to open the doors to the restrooms and the stalls.
I recently rode the subway in New York City. When I exited the train, the only access to the street was a double flight of stairs. When I inquired about the elevator, I was told there wasn’t one. What is a disabled person to do?
Thanks to the Americans with Disability Act that was passed in 1990, we have come a long way in accessibility. *The Americans with Disabilities Act required businesses, buildings, public transportation, and other services to accommodate people with disabilities. Now, most cities have accessible transportation to get into a doctor’s office, to go to the movies, to get into a hotel or a restaurant to give people with disabilities the chance to do the same things as everyone else. This has changed the world not just for people with disabilities but for all of us. We’re an aging society, so we all benefit from these things in the long run.
However, not all places in the community are barrier-free, and few establishments offer electronic doors for handicap accessibility. Progress is still needed. Perhaps all of us need to walk a mile in the shoes of a person with handicaps.
I am thankful that I was only limited for a short time, however, I am also thankful that I now have much more compassion for what my handicapped clients face on a daily basis. I now understand how difficult it is for a handicapped individual to navigate the community. This new level of empathy enables me to better understand the needs of people with disabilities so I can better serve them.
See another corresponding article that shows how things have changed and the laws that surround them.