Walking around the inner harbor of Baltimore that first weekend of January, on what was actually our third date, my new boyfriend and I rejoiced in the unseasonable spring like weather and the glory of being able to enjoy it.
We weren't alone- the harbor area was packed and partying with crowds of people- ethnic mix, age mix, lifestyle mix, class mix. In the aquarium alone we each noted at least five non-English languages being fluently, natively spoken.
Strolling along in the sun watching the passerby we occasionally commented. This time it was me speaking and Boyfriend rapidly responded, "I was just thinking the same thing."
A man had gone by as passive passenger in a wheelchair.
If you have ever been to the inner harbor you might recall the sidewalk that half-circles the water, and on the land side of that half circle lie concentric shops- sort of a pretty two-tiered mini mall for tourists. And between the sidewalk and the shops is a short flight of stairs. Unbroken. All the way around.
So if I were pushing someone in a wheelchair I could:
a) try to haul the loaded chair up the steps backwards.
b) throw the passenger over my shoulder and carry him or her up the steps lugging the chair with my other arm, or abandoning it.
c) attempt to carry loaded wheelchair up the stairs.
d) unable to lift carry twice my weight up stairs, simply walk the walk and never go inside.
And if I were alone propelling myself in a wheelchair? And I couldn't walk? And certainly couldn't fly... .
Until I worked with people who depend on wheelchairs for mobility, handicap accessibility or lack there-of was not something I ever noticed. Have you ever tried to pull a 150 pound person in an 80 pound wheelchair over a 4 inch lip through a non-automated single door that opens outward on a five foot deep landing on top of stairs? It can be done but it's a tad challenging.
I see problems but have no idea how to go about helping with a solution