Have you ever noticed how inaccessible your community is? Do you find it difficult to walk around the shops with a pushchair, walking aid or use a wheelchair? If you haven’t found this to be a problem, then I am sure that you are in the minority. Despite there being a change in legislation to improve access to public spaces, this remains a daily problem for many people.
So why doesn’t seem to be any real change happening to address these issues?
Since becoming an occupational therapist and a mum I am obsessed with looking at, and testing, facilities’ access for people with a disability, and I have more questions than answers!
- Why should a wheelchair user have to enter a building by the backdoor?
- Why is it that the counters in shops remain high?
- Why is it that the aisles in shops are too narrow for a wheelchair?
- Why is it that disabled toilets often don’t offer a suitable turning space or the flexibility to transfer from the left or right side of the toilet?
- Why is it that disabled toilets always have a much smaller sink to wash your hands?
- Why is it that disabled toilets only tend to have a changing bench for a baby and not an adult?
- Why is it that the soap dispenser always seems to be in the wrong place or empty?
I am of the view that more should be done to improve the access to shops, restaurants, banks and other public buildings, with an emphasis on considering the needs of a wheelchair user and parents with pushchairs. Whilst I am aware the funds for projects such as this are limited, access for people with a disability is paramount to their function, independence, self-esteem and confidence.
People with a disability should be encouraged to integrate within the community, as this is key to feeling valued. As a starting point, one of the ways this could be done is to ask for advice from people with a disability, parents of small children and professionals such as an occupational therapist to ensure that any changes made are essential, cost effective and improve the existing environment.