Friday, August 8, 2008

Ever Wonder? Waiting Rooms

Did you ever wonder why most doctor's offices, labs, hospital, and radiology waiting rooms leave no space for a wheelchair or scooter? There's often wall-to-wall seating but no room for a significant slice of the population. A patient in a wheelchair? Who'd'a thunk it?

You know what I'm talking about! It's so embarrassing to sit right in front of other people's knees or sideways in the flat middle of the room. Leaving a chair or two pulled out or one sofa sans sofa table leaves room to pull a wheelchair into an open space, or a scooter partway into the space. Only a few places have an extra row of seating in the middle of the room and leave the space next to the end chair "open"; others block it off so you can't sit next to your child or family member.

I can fit myself somewhere, yes, but it's really embarrassing. Or nauseating, when the only space is next to the icky (pediatrician's) trashcan. I notice this happen to others too and feel helpless to help them. In the cardiologist's office, I haven't been taking my scooter if I can park in the closest lot, so I get to see all the other wheelchair users sit in the middle of the room, their backs to other people). (It is "fun" when I have to park across the street because the parking lot attendant can only raise the parking arm for vehicles and my scooter won't fit through the opening when the arm is lowered--I can't step up on the curb and squeeze through as a pedestrian can. Parking gates are a terrible physical barrier for disabled people.)

Worse are chairs bolted to the floor in some places so that I can't get in or around so that people can't help me if they want to.

I am exasperated sometimes by how few places are actually disability accessible. Very few.

My sister said recently she didn't understand some of people's needs until she watched someone unload an electric wheelchair and try to get seated in a building. She understood in theory, but didn't see the practical issues with getting around. She says that the occupational and speech therapy office where she takes a couple of her children is completely disability inaccessible in any way, although there could be ramping to the curb and a paved walkway rather than stepping stones to the back of the building. The front of the building would take extensive remodeling. I mean, do kids who need extensive occupational and speech therapy never need a wheelchair? Or walker? They sure did at the place my son went! I don't understand why this relatively new business didn't plan ahead. She said she's going to ask them about it.

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