As a person with a disability, it doesn’t take long for me to look around an establishment and notice opportunities that can make life a little easier for those in a wheelchair. I noticed that when I was on the east coast and closer to metropolitan areas, various establishments had shown themselves to be a little more accommodating to those with disabilities. When I relocated to the west coast in a suburban area, I faced a lot of challenges. Some of the local businesses were not quick to make any changes based on my recommendations.
Educating Business Owners
I moved from a previous neighborhood because the slope of the driveway was so high that my old wheelchair would get stuck. When I moved to my current neighborhood, I partnered with the builder to explain my needs, as well as the needs of current disabled customers and potential home buyers, whom may utilize a wheelchair or walker.
I was really shocked when I noticed the lack of ADA door push plates on the west coast. When I see a company that has an ADA push plate, I perk up a little. It’s great to know that they thought of people like me when designing their establishment. That place becomes welcoming instantly, and I am more than willing to support a business that invites me in with accessible features. Although it seems minor to have a push plate, it can really make or break a person’s day, or even their spirit.
A Bad Experience Becomes a Moment of Education
This positive experience followed a very painful one just a week before. I was outside of a very important doctor’s appointment for almost an hour, knocking and calling. There was no staff assigned to the door. It wasn’t until a patron of the establishment was walking out and held the door for me that I was let in. When I gave the receptionist my name, I was advised that I missed my appointment due to no fault of my own. I scheduled a meeting with the manager, expressed my concerns, and provided feedback on how to make minor updates that will welcome everyone, not just abled bodied people that can grab a door and let themselves in. Before the meeting ended, I recommended to the manager the idea of assigning a representative from the company to check the door and the perimeter for people who may be coming in.
The American with Disabilities Act provides civil right protection to ensure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as other people. Once companies see the value in this partnership, the public will view them differently. When I see an establishment that is ADA compliant, I send the word out in the community that they are an ally for those of us that are disabled. The minor changes that can be made are usually inexpensive and will not only support those with disabilities in some situations but also our aging adults. There is value in being an inclusive company, as it’s one of the best ways to have everyone talking about your business. Society sees that those with disabilities have a voice and can be influential, both socially and politically.
About Merlisha Henderson: Merlisha uses an Edge 3 Power Wheelchair for mobility and lives in Arizona with her family. As a wife, mother and disability advocate in her community, she stays active and independent, working toward bringing equality and access to all. Click here to learn more about Merlisha.
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