A Trip to University Village: A Lesson in Access for Wheelchair Users
"I almost died going down that hill," recalled Melissa, a DO-IT Summer Study Intern, regarding the trip to the University Village shopping center. Melissa uses a wheelchair to get around. The sidewalk was wide enough for wheelchairs, but it surely wasn't safe. One of the biggest problems with the sidewalk was that it was bumpy and uneven, making it hard for wheelchairs to move safely down it. Not only was it hard for those in a wheelchair, but also for those who are visually impaired or blind, or others who were just walking. There were so many cracks, divots, and uneven places in the ground that it sent many of us tripping and falling.
As we made it down the hill towards the crosswalk near the curb of the intersection, all limbs surprisingly still intact, we came to find that there was no wheelchair ramp to cross the street. When we finally arrived at University Village, we found that most stores did not have wide enough areas between displays and shelves for wheelchairs. Additionally, almost none of the stores had automatic doors.
What we learned from this trip is, even though it has been almost twenty years since the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, we have a long way to go to ensure that everything is accessible to wheelchair-users.