Monday, December 21, 2015

Don't Block the Aisles

 I'm not handicapped, but this week I learned a little about how difficult it can be to get around if you have to rely on an assistive device....especially at this time of year.
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I'm having mobility problems due to a suddenly bad knee.  I have been relying on crutches or a cane to get around in my home, and had not been able to get out Christmas shopping at all.  A friend thought I might do better with a walker, and lent me hers.  It took a lot of pressure off the bad knee, while likely strengthening my arm muscles at the same time.  Thankfully it also has a seat so I could sit to rest from time to time.

My dear hubby would drop me as close to the store door as he could, and bring the walker in with him once he was parked.  Some places like Walmart and some  Sears stores, provide benches where I could sit and wait.  Getting around inside the stores though, was where the challenge came in.  Many merchants put extra displays in the center of the aisles that you then have to maneuver around.  Frequently I found the remaining space too narrow to navigate and would have to find another route.  This meant I had to walk even further in my incapacitated condition.  I can tell you that if I couldn't get through those spaces with a walker, someone in a wheelchair would have had to wheel backwards, as there was likely no room to turn around.

 People  were another problem.  It's not that the stores were crowded.  Online shopping has solved that problem the past couple of years.  People stand in the narrowest part of an aisle and stare at the shelf.  I found I could come right up to them and apparently remain invisible.  If there was any room to pass I would excuse myself as I attempted to get by without running over them, and that would get them to move.  If there was no such space, it seems it wouldn't have mattered if I stood there all day.  I always had to find another route.

I found store clerks to be friendly and helpful though sometimes, in their eagerness to show me where to find something, they dashed off ahead of me at a speed that was impossible to keep up with. Luckily for me, my hubby could follow them while I tried to keep an eye on where they went without knocking things over while struggling to join them.

 I discovered that elevators exist in hidden corners, and are safer to use than escalators when operating wheeled devices.  On the two occasions I rode one I was lucky enough to get on first.  I'd move into the far corner and get turned around towards the front, to be ready to exit.  Then families with a stroller would join me in the suddenly too small space.  I was thankful there were not numerous floors or everyone might have had to get off first just so I could get out of there when it was my turn to exit.

In the crowded food court we finally found a table that a lady in a wheelchair, and her companion, were about to vacate.  The regular chair had been moved partially into the aisle on one side of the table while the lady had pulled her wheelchair in as close as she could at the other end.  while that narrowed two rows, it didn't totally block either. That gave me some idea of how to proceed.  The walker folds easily so I pulled it up beside me as I sat on a regular chair.  I narrowed only one aisle slightly, and made sure it was the one less traveled.

 It's all been a learning experience.   I will have much more empathy for the handicapped in the future, I'm sure.  Hopefully you will too now that I've pointed out a few things that we, as able bodied people, generally do with little or no thought.  If the merchants and the general public would at least keep the aisles passable, that would be a great help. Just sayin.....

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