Force of habit compels me, unconsciously, routinely, impulsively, to say, “I’m taking a walk.” (Back in the day, the sounds of those words compelled my dog to leap with joy, and scamp away to find her leash.) In reality, however, fully conscience, pragmatic, practical, I should say, “I’m taking a roll.” (my dog would have snored.)
The truth of the matter is that I’m no longer bi-podal: when I take a walk, I sit.
I roll from my Assisted Living Facility, my ALF, for two reasons: to shop in the nearby multi-functional retail store for groceries, personal hygiene items, produce, high protein drinks, et.al. And to visit my favorite coffee shop, where a stranger will open the door for my wheelchair when I tap on the glass door, where the barista, when she hears my tap will begin to make my favorite frou-frou coffee drink, and when finished will bring it to the table where I placed myself on the flower-laden outdoor patio, to sit in the sun to sip my drink and read the book which keeps me company.
To enjoy this bliss, I engaged in an existential struggle to cross two chaotic, car-filled boulevards.
First, I had to push the walk button, allowing me access to the cross walk. (roll, for me.) Not a problem – if I were standing and walking, but, alas, I’m not. The city engineers have designed and built a new pedestrian system for ease of entering the cross-walk. Great for wheelchairs. Thanks. But, the post the walk button is affixed to now rises from an aesthetically pleasing concrete base. Easy to reach if you’re standing. But I - and other wheelchair habitués – am not. I can’t position my wheelchair close enough so that I can reach the button. The button is too far away and too high. Were the engineers sitting in a wheelchair when they designed the easy-to-use-wheelchair-access button?
So, I wait until a pedestrian is going my way and presses the button, or I ask a passer-by to push it for me. Now I’m free to roll my mini four-wheel transport into the crossing lane and into the range of the bemouth other four-wheel transports, and hope none try to beat the red light.
Dick Weinman is an AARP volunteer and our ALF guru.