The Manual Wheelchair Training Guide
by Axelson P, Chesney D, Minkel J & Perr A
Have you ever looked forward to a fabulous meal at a great restaurant, dressed in your best, and fought your way onto the bus, or endured a heart-stopping cab ride, only to find the place's located up a flight of stairs and booked for the night? Sometimes it's not a lack of access but a lack of information that will make your journey difficult. Taking a few minutes to call ahead can solve many problems and lots of time in the long run. Be specific when asking questions; many people's idea of "accessible" may be very different from yours. Don't be surprised if you are told a restaurant is accessible even if it occupies the upper floor of a building without an elevator. If a destination you have been told is accessible turns out to be inaccessible, request an interview with the facility manager. Tell the manager that "accessible" means an environment in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG), and that your inability to use the facility probably indicates the establishment needs to improve its access measures. Appendix A contains more information about the ADA.
Travel Planning Tips
Part of the appeal of going to new places is the fun of exploring the unknown. Though you may think advance reconnaissance is cheating and dull, it is usually worthwhile to obtain basic access information about the site to avoid disappointments. You don't want to arrive at a wedding, resplendent in nice clothing, only to find you must cross a muddy path to get to the reception. Nor would it be amusing to arrive at a hotel and discover their "accessible guest room" has a shower stall sized to accommodate slender children but not you and your shower chair. Make a practice of calling ahead of time and talking to friends or acquaintances who have been there before.
Calling ahead could save you from getting muddy on your way to the event.
Consider asking the following questions:
If your hotel room poses access problems, try brainstorming solutions with the management. For example, ask them to wrap towels around exposed hot water pipes under sinks, or remove the bathroom door if the opening is too narrow for your wheelchair.
For shower seating, pack a webbed beach chair when you travel.
This tub would be usable if the door could close behind the wheelchair user. Calling beforehand could have prevented this situation.
Your capabilities will vary depending on your environment. For example, wheeling around a rural Midwestern town is very different from slipping through the throngs of New York City. Many factors affect wheelchair mobility, including the upkeep of sidewalks and streets.
Last Updated: February 5, 2001