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Disabled face many challenges with everyday life

Herald-Standard - 5/19/2017

My brain works pretty good. The rest of my body, not so much.

My brain works pretty good. The rest of my body, not so much.

I am a person with multiple physical disabilities including being blind. This means if I am not at home or at dialysis, I am most likely out somewhere, but in a wheelchair. I don't get to go too many places because of inconsistencies of wheelchair accessibilities.

Over the past several months I have been following a local band to various venues throughout Fayette County. They have performed at local bars as well as the Lady Luck Casino. I enjoy listening to them--I like acoustic music--but I find that some of the inconveniences are well, quite inconvenient.

I always thought there were ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) laws making public places handicapped accessible. It is amazing how many places are not. In some instances, the door may be wheelchair accessible, but there is no ramp. I have to get out of my wheelchair and climb several steps to get into the building and then I can get back in my chair. You may not think that two steps are a lot, but when you cannot see and there is no railing for support, and your legs just don't work so well, two steps is quite a challenge. At another location, there is a ramp but the door is not wide enough for a wheelchair to fit through. Some places have big parking lots. After you park you have to walk around to another side of the building to get to a handicapped accessible door. The problem? The parking lot was full of holes and gravel, making it very difficult to traverse with the wheelchair.

It's not just local clubs that have this issue. I have been to one doctor's office to find that the wheelchair does not fit through their door.

I am not implying that the world should bend over backwards for those of us with disabilities. But they should let us be a part of the world around us. I know of many places I will not go to because it is too difficult to get inside. There are stores I will not shop in because the aisles are too narrow and the stores are not handicapped friendly. Yes, my disability limits a lot of activities.

I should be able to navigate sidewalks in towns and cross streets knowing that I can go down one handicap ramp across the street and up the other side. Not all curbs have that advantage. I'm not just talking about small towns either. I was recently in Pittsburgh for an event and almost toppled out of my wheelchair several times because of the potholes in the road as well as two or three inch gaps between the surface of the blacktop and the base of the handicap ramp. Or there was a gap between the road and the curb where the wheels of my wheelchair got stuck. Don't even get me started on the sidewalks.

Trying to get to my dentist is a nightmare because of raised sections of concrete as well as bits of missing sidewalk. Of course, you do have to get up onto the sidewalk first. As you can see, not all of the places that are difficult to get to are for fun but out of necessity.

In this day and age, people are so afraid to reach out to help someone. I understand that, I get it--I really do. But you know what? I appreciate when someone stops to hold the door open while my attendant is trying to maneuver my chair. I appreciate doors like they have at the Uniontown Mall where you can press a button and the door actually opens away from you so you can get inside. I also appreciate ramps that are at the proper angles making it possible for my attendant to push me. One of my doctor's office has a very long and very steep ramp making it nearly impossible to get me up and down because of the severity of the slope. For that reason, out of necessity, I am seriously considering looking for another doctor. That is sad because he has been my doctor since 1979.

If you have a friend or neighbor who is disabled, take a moment to see if there something you can do to help them. If you see someone at your local supermarkets and they are trying to reach something on the top shelf, take 30 seconds out of your busy life and offer to help. Hold a door open. Take my buggy back, help me stand. It doesn't cost you a penny and these small acts of kindness will go a long way in making someone's day be a little better.

Kathy Bartolotta is a resident of Tower Hill Two.


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