Many places in the UK still have a problem with wheelchair access that could very easily be solved. Wheelchair accessibility does not just relate to getting into buildings but also to pavements, road crossings, doorways and stairways. There are plenty of minor steps that could be taken to alleviate a lot of the struggle for many people. I have been in a wheelchair for about 13 years and have visited plenty of places that were a complete pain in the backside the gain entry to. Getting wedged on the threshold of a restaurant, being pulled back out and re-entering through a little side door certainly isn’t a dignified entrance I can attest.
I find that one of my main personal issues is feeling embarrassed and nobody wants to be stared at, so getting stuck or sitting outside a closed door in the rain doesn’t help you avoid it. I think just like most people I want to have a sense of normality, being treated just like anybody else, and having proper accessibility really does help with that. I think it would be unreasonable for me to expect the installation of elevators and automatic doors in every single place I may want to go to, but it is not beyond the realms of possibility for places to add such accessories that improve access for a reasonable cost. It’s true things are improving but still very slowly, and whilst ‘push to open’ buttons are useful for some, I can’t use my arms to press them.
For example, many establishments could build ramps or have access to temporary ramps to get over a curb or a step in front of a building. Ramps can also benefit the elderly, people with push-chairs, or others with mobility issues, not just those in wheelchairs. I recently used a small portable ramp to get into a restaurant and I’m certain it didn’t break the bank. The same can be said for pavements and points to get on and off them. Many pavements in the area I live are often uneven or too narrow and in some cases completely non-existent. Also, oftentimes the curb drops are too high for my wheelchair ‘curb-climber’ to tackle and I’m pretty sure no driver wants to see a wheelchair user forced to drive along the road. The drops could be lowered or changed to better accommodate wheelchairs.
Anyway, there are plenty of measures that could be implemented simply and relatively cost-effectively to improve access for wheelchair users. Food for thought for urban designers.
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