As the saying goes, ‘walk a mile in my shoes to understand my situation’. If we make that ‘wheel a mile in my wheelchair’ the message is the same.
“Until you are forced to use a wheelchair to get around you really don’t understand how difficult everyday mobility can be for people who must use one,” said temporarily wheelchair-bound Felicity Bradford.
“You don’t realise how incapacitating it is until you are in this position.
“Even though I am only temporarily in a wheelchair, I feel for those people who are having to use them for mobility all the time.”
Felicity broke an ankle in three places and is unable to walk. After about six or seven weeks she will slowly start to put pressure on it but even with crutches it will be several more weeks before full recovery.
Meanwhile, Felicity has to use a wheelchair – accompanied by a helper – to get around town.
“I use the wheelchair for distance, getting around town and to get to work,” she said.
“I am only using the wheelchair when I have someone with me.”
Getting up and down from footpath to street level is a real challenge, being unable to get across the median strip is another challenge for people pushing strollers or shopping trolleys, apart from those who use a wheelchair.
Everyday access in the main street can be made easier.
Flattened sections of footpath kerbs in the CBD would be a big help as well as some gaps created in the median strip.
Now, with the main street construction entering its final phase, an opportunity presents to re-visit the disability and wheeled access points.
The median strip forces a long journey for some.
“If I didn’t have my friend Simmone Moodie to help I would have to wheel all the way down the street to cross at the crossings to get to a shop that might be directly across from me on the other side,” said Felicity.
And some areas where it is possible to push up and over are dangerous for the wheelchair occupant if the chair tips over.
“Getting on and off the footpath onto the street is difficult,” said Felicity.
“It would be very helpful to have sections in the main street median strip where a wheelchair, or a stroller or a shopping trolley could get through to cross the road without having to go right down to a corner.
“If you are in the middle of the block you have to go to the end of the street and back again to get where you want to go.
“We need more crossings – even one in the middle of the end blocks would be a help. It would only need to be a metre wide.
“People have told me they have noticed elderly shoppers trying to push trolleys across the median strip, and having difficulty getting on and off the footpath, spilling groceries.
“I am only temporarily in a wheelchair – what about those who are permanently in a wheelchair, or are aged, or don’t have carers to help them?”
Felicity added that an awareness project would be a good idea.
“Perhaps we can ask able bodied people, business people, council representatives or others in the community to get around in wheelchairs and see how they go.
“It would create awareness of the reality that confronts people with a disability or the elderly.
“It needs to be done – and now would be a good time – I’m sure we could do it with safely with social distancing.”
Part of Felicity’s job as a manager with BEST Employment is in Disability Employment Services and she said the organisation was keen to promote awareness of issues around disabilities in the community and to build inclusiveness.
“People with disabilities are the ones who just don’t complain and put up with things,” she adds.
“There are ways we can make life easier and mobility more convenient.”To order photos from this page click here