One of my favorite things to do is shopping. It doesn't matter whether it's target, the mall, the grocery store, bookstore etc. I don't even have to be there to buy anything, just getting out of the house and being in a different environment is enough. It's actually relaxing to me to look at different things in a store. There are certain places I could spend hours in just looking around.
I do get frustrated sometimes while shopping, not because of people but because of the accessibility in and around some stores. In most cases while at the mall, I end up having people move clothing racks so I can get through the store. At a lot of the strip malls the doors to get in are barely big enough or they swing a weird way where it's difficult to get in. Some have double doors where when I get through the first one I'm blocking the second one from opening. If that happens I end up halfway through the first door in order to have somebody open the second one. Most of the smaller and older stores don't have a handicap button, which makes it even harder.
There are also other issues with accessibility getting to locations. For example, sidewalk ramps aren't always in the place you'd think they would be. Sometimes I have to travel away from the store to get on the sidewalk and then backtrack to it. Sidewalks themselves can be a problem if they are uneven or have big cracks or holes. It definitely makes for a bumpy ride just getting there. The other thing that's an issue is streets or parking lots that don't have sidewalks where I have to go in the way of cars.
The closest mall to my house is Ridgedale Mall, which is about 3/4 of a mile away. When it's nice outside I like to roll there. There's only one way to get to it from my house, and it's not accessible at all. I'm going to try to explain the situation as best I can so you can create a picture in your mind.
After I get through my neighborhood streets I turn right onto Plymouth Road and go about a half a mile on the sidewalk (which is rather bumpy). Ridgedale Drive is the cross street that I turn right onto. I can't go straight across at the corner stoplight of Plymouth Road and Ridgedale Drive because there is no sidewalk on the other side and no down ramp, so I have to go right. I keep going down the sidewalk until I get to the opening to the Ridgedale library (on right, directly across from the mall). That's the only spot that has a down ramp for me to get off the sidewalk. Once I do that, I cross the street (no crosswalk there) and get to the side where the mall is. Since there is no sidewalk on the left side of the street, I have to go left up the street with traffic backtracking towards the stoplight in order to get to an entrance that leads to the parking lot of the mall. When I'm there, I go directly across the middle of the parking lot to the Ridgedale Mall entrance.
Now, if you're able to picture that you are amazing but that's the best I can describe it. I've lived in this house since March of 05 and ever since have wanted to file a complaint but never knew how. I came across this organization called MN-CCD which stands for Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities.
According to their website:
"MN-CCD members are organizations that serve or advocate on behalf of people with disabilities. Governmental agencies may be members of MN-CCD only if their statutory mission includes advocacy on behalf of people with disabilities.
For some individuals there must always be a role for government to help support them in their home and community. The MN-CCD supports public policies that provide the most cost-effective delivery of services and help individuals with disabilities maintain their health and gain as much independence as possible in their daily living."
I learned about the organization through someone else and decided to e-mail them to see how I could get involved. The vice president, Christopher Hall, called me and during the conversation the whole topic of accessibility getting to Ridgedale Mall came up. One of the things they do is help people file complaints. Chris and his son came and met me at my house; we went out to that area so they could videotape me going across the street. Then they're going to figure out who owns the street and file a complaint for me.
I think what they do is great! I'm so excited to see this thing through and hopefully make a difference. It would be great to not have to worry about getting hit by a car every time I cross. Some people have just asked me why I even bother going there in my wheelchair if it's such a hassle and danger. They've told me that it would just be easier if I got driven to the mall. My response is always the same. I'm allowed to experience and have as much independence as possible and being able to travel to the mall by myself is included.
Accessibility has a very broad description and I believe it's important to look at all aspects and try to change things as much as possible to make it easier for people with disabilities.