Updated Thu, Dec 12, 2013 2:08 pm
Sometimes I find myself going around in circles. Those who see me and know me chuckle. Others look at me strangely. A few even ask if I am lost. I’m only trying to find the smoothest and less obstructive way to get from here to there. I know. You hear me beat this drum all of the time, but if you use a wheelchair and get to a point on the sidewalk where there is a deep hole or a wide crevice, around in circles you will go. And it’s not only Athens. I have visited towns where I’ve rolled two to three blocks trying to find a good curb cut or a place that’s level enough for me to cross the street. A few crossings are so rough that I have to turn around in the chair and go over the curb cut backwards in order to maneuver over the curb and not get stuck. Sometimes I come out of a building, look both ways, and decide for a moment which direction will be the lesser of two evils to get to another location in the wheelchair.
On a fairly warm day last week, I decided to go to the diner across the street from my office to take my student assistant to lunch before the end of the semester. Looking both ways, I chose the upper road. This meant I had to either go to the vehicle driveway in the middle of the block (which is extremely jagged) or go to the end of the next block. I took the jagged way, backed up to get over it, and scrapped the bottom of the chair. I won’t do that again. When I crossed the street and approached the sidewalk, the incline of the sidewalk made the chair go sideways. After a warning by my student and a quick slow down with the joy stick, I made it on the sidewalk safely. Surveying the sidewalk on where I had now arrived across the street, I remembered why I rarely go to the diner myself and, instead, have lunch delivered. There was a large hole in the middle of the sidewalk and I ended up scrapping the side of the chair, and there was a huge separation on the pavement. Yes, I had to back up and turn around, again, in order that the front wheels would not get stuck. I’m starting to take pictures wherever I go to point out the places needing help. So, if you see a little lady in a wheelchair turning around in circles with a camera, I’m not a bad driver and I’m not lost. I’m just trying to find a good route.
On the next “Conversations from Studio B” on issues related to disability and accessibility, Andy Stone, Engineering and Public Works Director for the City of Athens, will join us to talk about the work he and his staff are doing to make the streets and sidewalks of Athens more accessible for persons with disabilities. Send your questions for Andy to firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday, December 16, 11 p.m. Your questions will be answered on a show that will air Sunday, December 22, at 12:30 p.m. on WOUB-AM, 1340 and www.woub.org