Soon after we launched MM, a friend and I went to a local theme park, where we rented a wheelchair. She sat; I propelled. Off we went.
Our visit went well. Park employees stood at each attraction's entrance to show us to ramps or elevators. We hit no snags while renting the chair. Whenever asked about the park, I said it was fairly accessible.
Then last month, I spoke with a friend who had visited the same park with his teenage son. They also rented a wheelchair, since my friend has strength and stamina issues following a recent illness.
I grinned knowingly: "Pretty accessible, right?"
"Not really," he answered.
He'd wanted to rent a scooter, but the supply ran out. So he got a chair, and his 14-year-old took the helm. Partial mayhem ensued.
I was puzzled. We each detailed our visit to a certain fun house-like attraction, where costumed employees jump out at guests. After I told my story, my friend chuckled.
"Well, you went on weekday afternoon in the spring," he pointed out. "Not many people, right? We went during the summer."
I hadn't thought of that.
He went on, "How tall is your friend? How well did she fit into the rental chair?"
My petite friend fit into the chair easily...unlike the built-like-a-linebacker friend I talked to now.
"And," he smiled, "you pushed the chair, right? Your friend wasn't being pushed by a 14-year-old."
End result: My friend was run into wall after wall by his excited son. The chair fit through the narrow halls, but only if perfectly centered - hard to do given dim lighting and floor-to-ceiling mirrors. My friend was jostled by other guests, and his jutting elbows and knees were jarred. A cattle stampede is more peaceful.
So I learned that accessibility is not a concrete equation to be solved once, but rather a living, changing being. While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may require retailers to include blue-tagged parking spaces and elevators, are those spaces sufficient, do elevators remain unblocked? For the ADA to truly work, it, too, must be a living, breathing thing.
In the midst of Medtrade planning, we pause to take accessibility's pulse, so you can ensure your customers make the most of the equipment and expertise you provide.
This article originally appeared in the October 2004 issue of Mobility Management.