A Wheelchair Friendly Guide for When You Need Some Fresh Air
If people saw me going on my daily stroll through the neighborhood, they’d soon notice I don’t exactly have a clear or straight path. Tracking me on a map would look like a kid trying to draw out a maze. All the lines would look like a bunch of jumbled zigzags and yet I have a specific pattern that changes day to day.
Why? Well, weather, people, and general circumstances play significant roles in this.
Let’s start with the obvious one. It rains a lot in my area, and I don’t want my caregivers to have to get the old toilet brush and hose to scrub my muddy tires down. It’s both a pain and time consuming. If there’s mud or large puddles of water, I’m avoiding that sidewalk.
People and random outcomes are the otherwise varying factor. Here’s five reasons why.
- Parked Vehicles
This is what I mainly look for when deciding which side of the street I want to go on. If there’s a car, truck, van, whatever sticking out of the driveway and blocking the path I’ll avoid that side. Now obviously there’s always the chance of both sides having cars in the way so you can either continue down the next street and see if there’s better luck or pick the side with less cars, usually ones that are closer to the corner (so you’re not in the street for very long).
This might sound over the top and tedious, but I tend to be alone and listening to music, so I’d rather be cautious than accidentally get run over. One could say just go through the grass and around said vehicle to which I say absolutely not. Even if the grass is dry, I’m not risking banging into someone’s car or getting stuck because there happened to be a giant dip in the ground. If there’s a gap or way for you to squeeze through without going off-roading, then definitely take it by all means. Unfortunately for me, it’s not often I do that because my chair has a pretty big rear end.
And actually, some counties do have regulations that state people can’t block sidewalks with their vehicles. But, good luck getting people to enforce or follow these rules.
So first off, check the driveways for cars in the way and decide how you want to approach it by planning your path or simply move on to the next street.
Okay, let me be specific here because I’m not talking sticks or smaller branches since those usually break easily enough. I’m talking about dog poop, broken glass and anything else that’ll get stuck on you or damage your wheels. Even if there’s a chance I could maneuver my way around, it requires some extra coordinating and dancing with the wheels.
Though it’s rare, just watch where you’re going which honestly applies to everyone in general. Don’t injure yourself because you missed the shards of broken beer bottles or that sudden drop in the sidewalk you didn’t catch. This may sound obvious and straightforward, but I’ve gotten distracted by looking at people’s houses and didn’t notice the cracked sidewalk below me until I was tipping forward. I wouldn’t have flipped over but it definitely caught me off guard.
This also leads me to my next reason.
- Cracked/bumpy/tilted/all of the above sidewalks
Again, it sounds obvious and not that big of a deal but trust me it’s not the most smooth ride when your stroll through the neighborhood feels like sitting on a school bus that’s driving over a speed bump every ten seconds. If you know, you know! It hurts, it’s extremely uncomfortable (borderline painful at times) and my back would like to file a complaint!
I know most sidewalks aren’t like gliding on air, there will be small bumps of course, but I’m not talking about those. I mean the ones where the concrete is broken and there’s a five-inch gap that drops you down. Not so bad going that way yet getting up requires some acceleration and speed. For bigger bumps, I call those the Points of No Return because even my spider track system would be having some trouble climbing back up. Usually, I carry on and take another street to make my way back home.
As for tilted sidewalks, for me that depends on which direction I’m coming from. If it’s tilting down to the right, then that’s great because gravity forces me to lean that direction. Essentially, I’m actually sitting up straight for once! But if it’s the other way then gravity is really accelerating that scoliosis and I end up leaning even more. Not the most comfortable, but it’s tolerable enough I guess.
- Long/Thick Branches
No, this is not the same as before, these are the ones still attached to the plant. Trees or bushes that have extra long appendages can be dealt with pretty simply. I’ve found that turning around and driving backwards will protect my face as the back of my chair takes the brunt of it. Your arms will still partially get poked but at least you’re not squinting through the prickly underbrush and spitting leaves out of your mouth.
- Driveway Bumps
For whenever you need to cut across the street or go around parked cars, check out the edge of people’s driveways. Most are fine since they have a simple bump that isn’t too rocky, but others will be the complete opposite (in both cases). Some will be completely smooth and it’s like you’re floating whereas others will have a larger or broken drop. I refuse to interact with my neighbor’s edge of the driveway because it’s a hard hit, especially on the neck as it shakes my head around like a dang bobble head.
Tips & Tricks to Make Your Walk Easier
As I said before, driving backwards works great for avoiding branches and sometimes you can even just duck below them.
Occasionally I’ll also use my tires to shove aside tossed garbage cans, knocked over garden supplies, and other random objects, so you can do that too.
When crossing streets at intersections, I turn to face every direction because one, my neck only has so much rotation and two, to ensure all bases are covered. You’ll have a clear vision of where all the cars are coming from so you can plan to cross accordingly. This is especially helpful because the universe is weird and people have the tendency to suddenly meet all at the same time, even if you were completely alone just a second ago.
To me, going for a walk in my neighborhood is like unlocking parts of a map in an open world game. I’ve never seen some of these houses or streets before, so I feel like I’m going on a mini adventure, which is pretty fun. Not only is exploring entertaining, it’s also a way for me to be more independent on my own while still being in a safe area. Plus, it’s nice to get some sun every once in awhile.
What about you? What do you typically avoid or look out for when venturing outside? Make sure to comment down below! I enjoy comparing notes with others.
Don’t let objects impede your ability to enjoy your activities. These are minor inconveniences and you have the capability to bypass them. ~So Says The Disabled Dryad~
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