is the Wheelchair Friendly Zone?
people live in an environment created for and by bi-pedal creatures
who leap about from place to place, rarely thinking about others who
are differently abled. This walker friendly environment, rich in facilities
and stimulating experiences, creates significant problems for those
with revolving legs.
For most of their lives, the bi-pedal creatures (whom I'll call bi-peds
for short) wander around, oblivious to the amazingly complex skills
they possess. They are blissfully unaware that, by the merest whim
of fate these same abilities can be so easily removed.
The physical abilities and attributes of the bi-peds allow them to
negotiate narrow passages, to scale step-filled buildings and to open
doors with ease. They can grab goods from high shelves, drop in on
friends without considering the obstacles. With little thought, they
gallop over rough terrain never caring about invisibles like the gradient
or camber of pathways. Similarly, holes or objects blocking passages
offer no difficulty. They haven't always had it that easy, but they
have short memories.
When bi-peds are born, simple tasks are beyond them. When they have
accidents and break their bones, they become temporarily incapacitated
and their eyes suddenly open. With age or chronic illness, they become
permanently disabled and the, oh so friendly, world becomes problematic
again. When they become parents and have to negotiate their neighbourhoods
and familiar services encumbered by prams or become burdened by heavy
shopping they begin to glimpse something of the difficulties that're
the everyday experience of others who share their space. For their
power years, however, they tend to be insensitive. The world they
have created is their oyster... it is also their sandpit!
As the architects of the world, bi-peds, so able in other respects,
become stripped of foresight, insight and are governed by a narrowly
focused sensory impediment when confronted with something outside
the norms of their experience. Confined in their can-do-now world
they fail to anticipate the concerns of their excluded neighbours.
It was into this world that the idea of the Wheelchair Friendly Zone
became a necessity and was born in Kettering, Northamptonshire in
Wheelchair users needed to find spaces which they could negotiate
independently without fear of obstruction. They also needed to make
their needs plain to building managers and service providers. At the
same time, service providers wanted to tell non ambulant members of
the community that in their stores, pubs and eating houses, they could
be assured of good easy access. The "Zone" originally acted as a pressure
group, campaigning where necessary and at all times offering advice
on how to create and maintain accessible spaces. It also provided
stick on window badges to mark those areas which satisfied the standard
of enabling their users rather than compounding their disabilities.
Examples of this symbol surround this page. No sad stick insect figure
here, the wheelchair user is happy to be alive, empowered and in control.
After the campaign had been concluded the zone organisers had a batch
of stickers remaining. These are available to be used by anyone who
has a legitimate use for them to 'mark their territory'. If you are
a wheelchair user and want a window sticker for a car, drop me an
e-mail and I'll send you one in return for a small donation or self
addressed and stamped envelope. The donations will be used to promote
accessibility, support the offering of advice/information on disability
issues and to replenish stocks of stickers. We can be reached through
firstname.lastname@example.org and can still provide useful information
on topics such as ramps etc..
As an active pressure group the Wheelchair Friendly Zone is dormant
but its members are still around and committed to disability empowerment
and lobbying for the rights which are taken for granted in other parts
of the world! If you support these objectives, get in touch...
In conclusion, can I urge he to consider the message at the top of
this page:- making a difference begins with people taking action.
Your ideas will only become real if you start the ball rolling...
(Wheelchair Friendly Zone)