Tue, 04/05/2016 - 12:00am Barbados1
NOT so long ago I remarked that pushing a baby in a stroller could be unimaginably difficult on some of our island’s roads.
Admittedly for a person with a disability that might be laughable, however I will truly say that it gave me a glimpse into some of the areas which we need to address, if only from another perspective.
You see, it’s different because while there is some degree of difficulty, a parent could ‘easily’ lift a stroller over a sidewalk, or open the stroller, set it up and then lift the child out of a car, but these things are virtually impossible for a person who is in a wheelchair.
It is, therefore, not surprising that a group from the disabled community made their way with a petition to Government Headquarters to ensure that amendments are made to the Road Traffic Act, so that areas such as ramps and parking spaces are addressed.
We are all entitled to equal opportunities and anything that impedes the quality of life of persons with disabilities ought to be addressed with a matter of urgency. Our island is leaps and bounds above others in terms of our development. We cannot fall short on ensuring that the needs of our wheelchair users as well as the many persons who visit the island are met.
Recently I spoke to a wheelchair user who remarked that he would love to get around by himself, but a stroke restricted movement on his left side and he was unable to use the wheelchair without some assistance. It requires an unimaginable amount of upper body strength to manoeuvre in a wheelchair. When you add inclines, potholes, no ramps or sidewalks, we can see how instead of improving their quality of life, we are actually restricting it.
With so many lifestyle diseases, and with persons living longer, a time may soon come when sadly we may have to increase the number of parking spaces designated for wheelchair users or others with a disability. While this outlook might be negative for some, it is the reality, even though we might wish it not to be so. The answer for some might be to ensure that we don’t get these lifestyle diseases, however there will always be others who through no fault of their own are wheelchair bound.
Another experience which comes to mind, was an event which was being held at the Centre for the Blind. Imagine looking into a building and being greeted by almost total darkness. Thinking that I had the wrong date, I turned to leave but soon someone came to the door. The lady apologised profusely and remarked that the persons using the building had no use or very little use for light.
How interesting, when you put yourself in others’ shoes how inadequate you suddenly feel. I suddenly became the one with the disability, but they quickly ensured that every effort was made to accommodate those who needed light. I sincerely hope the lesson here was clear and that we all learn to facilitate those with a disability wherever possible.