ISSUES OF WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBILITY*
Common to many persons with disabilities needing wheelchairs:
Two or more disabilities in Activities of Daily Living (ADL)
Potential susceptibility to depression, lack of self esteem
Special needs can include feeding, toileting, bathing
Drivable vs. manual wheelchairs
Automated or drivable wheelchairs require judgment and use of hands
Manual require some judgment and use of hands
Cognitive issues can require a caregiver
Variety of wheelchairs and their accessories for different needs is extensive
Accessibility Issues of Automated and Manual Wheelchairs
Weight and size can require home alteration, special entrances for van
Transport wheelchairs are lighter and more easily placed in a trunk of a car; they require less space to go inside older buildings, many of which do not have 36” wide entry or inner door
The pressure on doors of buildings constructed prior to 2000 have more pressure in opening and closing than a refrigerator door, which is approximately 8.5 lbs of pressure to open. The refrigerator does not close unless you physically push it, but older, heavier high pressured doors, close very quickly and are heavy when they do close.
The length of time that these older doors close is faster than a wheelchair or a person with a walker can enter, thus closing on their backs and endangering entanglement with their legs. Therefore, many do not return to that place of business, restaurant, bank, place of entertainment or even a doctor’s office.
Automated buttons for entry doors allow the space needed without having to back up in a wheelchair after manually opening a door.
Manual doors require side space to open the door, then wheel around it with one hand, while holding the door open with the other. If the door handle is a flat panel-type door handle, then one must disengage his hand awkwardly to remove his hand before stretching his arm too far and catching himself in the door helplessly.
An observed veteran had another technique. He used an umbrella to strongly push himself back from a doorway, while pulling the door open with his other hand. The curb (not an incline) behind him was not that far away. Then, he pulled the mbrella back and holding it under his arm, manually wheeled himself through the doorway with both hands, with no time to spare before it closed. He must have practiced this over and over and probably was hit by the door many times. If anything had gone wrong in pushing himself backwards, he would have toppled over the curb behind him. By the way, that door on a large department store in a large local mall, had the handicap sticker on it!
Manual doors opened by a caregiver with wheelchair in front, require the caregiver to lean over the person in the chair, physically pull the wheelchair back at the same time as pulling the door open; if the door is heavy, the caregiver can be injured, pulling muscles in the arm (much needed for caregiving!). When the door is fully open, the caregiver has to hold the door open (usually heavy against the back), while pushing the wheelchair through the door, usually getting hit in the back or leg, which is outstretched to keep the door open until almost through the door.
Some persons in wheelchair with a caregiver, can open the door to a degree, then the caregiver must reaches over the person’s shoulder for the door. The person in the wheelchair then holds the door open with his or her arm. If that person has dementia or cognitive issues, a warning must be given to him in time hopefully to remove his hand before it reaches the area of the door jam, so as not to catch his hand as the door closes. With heavy doors, heavy pressure, and a swift timing of the door closing, this is a major concern. And here’s the significant question, “What if the person with dementia in the wheelchair doesn’t understand in time to move his hand?”
Unfortunately, these same problems can exist in attempting to enter or exit “handicapped” bathrooms. The sink is accessible, the toilet is higher, the rails for support are in and there is enough room to maneuver the wheelchair. But, the designers have forgotten to lower the door pressure, slow down how fast the door opens and closes, and change the door handle. Now, humorously, that’s a major barrier to goods and services!
LETS OPEN DOORS!
*I hope that those persons using manual automated wheelchairs will add to this list of ISSUES through comments, which can be posted.