Do you ignore the opinion pages of your local newspaper? I believe most do, but this was not the case with my column last week on the elderly and disabled, so I decided to continue giving voices to some of their issues. Hopefully, business owners will pay attention.
My first issue is the size of the curbs in front of businesses. I’ve been measuring, and the range is dramatic four inches to 10. Imagine trying to stay balanced and get a walker over that hump! That’s what the cuts in curbs are for: to accommodate those who can’t with agility get their foot up that high, much less maneuver a walker or a shopping cart.
I’ve been told that it was a lack of desire to do so when I was told that a particular historic building could not be reconfigured to accommodate persons with mobility issues. I was told there are other entries to that building other than the main one and those could be adjusted for use.
An issue that was called to my attention via one of the emails I received was about able-bodied girls and women using the handicapped stalls in public restrooms. I believe we can call a halt to that by just speaking up. We might get nasty remarks or looks, but the persons doing this know that it is just plain wrong. The person who sent me that remark uses a wheeled walker/rollator and said, “One day they may be in the same position and then they will have a better understanding.”
Another person called for benches inside stores in addition to those outside. This is an excellent idea as often a person drives the shopper but has no interest in shopping and he/she needs a place to sit. Speaking of needing a place to sit, I attended a memorial service in a cemetery this past week for a friend and watched as an elderly man got out of his truck, walked to the tent on the uneven ground while using two canes, and stood throughout the ceremony. What was the funeral home that provided the service thinking? Even a modest number of chairs should have been available for those who truly needed them.
A great suggestion from one respondent to last week’s column was to ask the baggers in grocery stores to “go lightly” with the bagging and to refrain from placing items on the bottom of the carts.
Fixed seating at a restaurant was something I also noticed this past week, and hostesses should never ask the elderly or the handicapped to sit in booths that were meant to accommodate the young and the slender.
Business owners might believe steps into their stores are interesting and attractive; however, by having these steps, they have just eliminated X number of customers
And there’s the matter of door handles, heavy doors, broken sidewalks, and a need for wider parking spaces so that drivers need not have the skills of a contortionist to exit a car as one respondent advised.
One more issue, and I’ll stop: dressing rooms in clothing stores. Make them large enough to accommodate a walker and include a chair or bench. Many of us have never been successful in ordering clothing from the web because of variations in sizing as well as quality of fabrics. Two years ago, I ordered a leather jacket and after several months it arrived – directly from China. There was no way to return the item, and I finally gave it to a friend’s 8-year-old child!
With 53 million plus Americans now with some form of disability and a U.S. projection is that 71.5 million baby boomers will be over age 65 by 2030, those wanting to invite these groups into their businesses must make decisions to intentionally accommodate them.
I’m sure there is so much more, but as Robin Checkwicz, a telecommunication employee in my creative writing classes, said recently in response to last week’s column, “That’s the way to wake them up, Vivian.” Let’s hope so.
Vivian Blevins is a consultant for the Training Solutions Group Inc. who teaches courses in writing and literature for major telecom company employees. Reach her at (937) 778-3815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.