As a good friend of mine says, “Are you kidding me?” I had this response to yet another obstacle in an allegedly accessible building—the drug store. There are handicapped parking spaces and curb cuts outside of the store. But the doors are 1960s originals—heavy, manual, double doors that make it virtually impossible for anyone in a wheelchair to enter.
My frustration does not stop there. The MS clinic in the hospital where I am a patient has no automatic doors. One must rely on the kindness of strangers to let them in. This, of course, is the same hospital where the bathrooms in the rehab unit are inaccessible by wheelchair. Are you kidding me?
Then there is the door at the brand-new neurological center where one of my providers is located. The door is not automatic and so heavy that even those without issues have a hard time opening it. Are you kidding me?
It seems incredible that some of the biggest offenders to accessibility are healthcare providers. And it’s not just doors, it’s tables. Wouldn’t you think that a doctor’s office would have at least one examination table in their office that would be high enough for people with profound mobility issues to manage? There are those of us who can’t just “hop up”!
Last winter, I had to obtain an ultrasound for a suspected blood clot in my leg. I went to the imaging center, where they felt they couldn’t safely get all 115 pounds of me on the table, even with the help of my aide and their techs .The table was just too high.
I was then sent to their other location with the promise that an adjustable table would be available. It was. But it was located in a room the size of a broom closet. Equipment had to be removed so my wheelchair could get through the door. When I used my chair to start the transfer, it knocked over other equipment, half of me went under the table, and the tech and I both yelled, “Stop!” After all the hysteria subsided, I had the test. No clot.
Dealing with all the problems MS throws our way, I think the medical community could be more attentive to accessibility issues. No kidding, doors and tables would be a great place to start.
Susan Skoney was diagnosed in 1999. She lives in western New York with her husband Michael and children Hannah and Alex. She worked many years in public relations and advertising, and has just started writing about her MS in the last few years.