Our New Year’s Resolution for 2012 is to put as many people in wheelchairs as possible. Why? Because it is amazing how fast perspective is changed and awareness raised from the seat of a wheelchair.
For example, I can tell you that a ramp slope should not exceed 8% (though < 5% is recommended*), and that to determine that percentage you take ratio of rise divided by run between two points, or I can put you in a wheelchair at the bottom of a too-steep ramp. Which will you remember more?
At Roll a Mile, we truly believe that first-hand experiences with barriers to access help raise awareness regarding accessibility. By no means do I want to trivialize the issues and barriers persons with disabilities face in their daily lives, as a few minutes in a wheelchair, blindfold or earplugs is only a small representation. But a few minutes “Rolling a Mile” can significantly raise awareness and alter perspectives.
All business owners and managers, particularly those with publicly accessible areas, should get in a wheelchair and take a tour of their store or facility. It gives an entirely new perspective about the arrangement, set-up and overall accessibility of a store. Can you reach items you need? Are you lost in a maze of clothing-rack displays? Are aisles wide and clear of objects? Are your interac machines secured or can they be moved to accommodate persons of shorter stature or those using a wheelchair or scooter? How are you perceived by others? Do they look at your face first, or your feet? Do they speak to you, or whoever you’re with? Perspectives can change greatly when your outlook is lowered even a few feet in a wheelchair.
In fact, everyone should spend a few days in a wheelchair and all educational disciplines could benefit from accessibility awareness training: architects, developers, planners, designers, engineers, healthcare professionals, business management, retail services, administration, human resources, marketing, sales, hospitality & tourism, recreation, computer engineering, computing & information sciences, criminal justice, community & social service professionals.
Of course, these are only issues that persons using wheelchairs encounter. There are entirely different accessibility considerations for physical, hearing, intellectual, learning, visual, and speech disabilities. Roll a Mile endeavours to provide all of our clients and participants with a “roll a mile” perspective to help raise awareness about barriers to access facing persons with disabilities. We also believe that first-hand experiences and altered perspectives assist with the retention of accessibility information. And while “putting people in wheelchairs” is not all we do, it’s an important part because raising awareness and increasing accessibility knowledge is what we’re all about at Roll a Mile.
*not intended as advice, Building Codes and regulations vary depending upon region.