Statistics show that roughly 2% of people are wheelchair users. Some of these use manual wheelchairs, whilst others use electric wheelchairs. Some are old, some are young. And some use their wheelchairs permanently, with others needing theirs only in certain circumstances.
Wheelchair users are all around us. Yet, our world isn’t properly designed for them.
Getting out and about, enjoying time as a family, can be particularly difficult when a family member needs a wheelchair. For a child it can restrict playtime, affect social opportunities and limit options for fun things to do. For a parent or older relative, a wheelchair can stop certain locations for being enjoyed. Without safe routes, a wheelchair can even stop a parent from taking their child to school or picking them up at the end of the day.
Managing wheelchair use as a family
Unfortunately, wheelchair users will have to adapt their lives to suit the world around them. Mobility difficulties are disabilities that developed countries are working to accommodate, though they’re definitely not there just yet.
So, here are some things to think about if you’re new to planning family days out with wheelchair users:
Is level or ramped access available?
This is the most simple of requirements.
Individuals in electric or manual wheelchairs must be able to move around safely. This means that there should be flat ground. Ideally, there will be hard paths. If there are slopes, they must be ones that a wheelchair user can navigate.
Steps are less than ideal, and may completely block access for wheelchair users. If an incline is too steep to roll up, or if a venue is split over multiple levels, then an elevator should be installed.
It’s not too much to ask, but in many places this basic access isn’t available. If you’re planning a day out, don’t assume that navigating will be easy. Research ahead of time. Remember that older buildings, including stately homes, may have very restricted access.
Are accessible toilets provided?
Being able to move around is one challenge. Being able to use the toilet is another.
Plan your family days out so that they can be enjoyed without restroom struggles. Look out for accessible toilet facilities, with wide doorways and plenty of space for even the biggest wheelchairs.
In the UK, Changing Places facilities are the best of the best for wheelchair users. They come with a wide range of well thought out features for individuals with mobility difficulties.
If you’re on a day out in the UK, why not check if there’s a Changing Places toilet near you?
How’s the parking situation?
A venue could be, accidentally or deliberately, absolutely perfect for people in wheelchairs. It could have wide open spaces, level and hard paths, ramps or elevators and excellent toilet facilities. But, none of that matters if you can’t get to it in the first place.
Parking spaces are getting smaller. They’re narrower, and not made with families in mind. Add a wheelchair into the equation and you’re heading for trouble.
If you have concerns about the parking, call ahead before your day out. You might also be able to check on Google Maps, overhead or using Street View, to make sure that there are accessible spaces available.
What about indoor spaces?
Restaurants need to have plenty of space between tables and chairs, for wheelchairs to easily get around. Shops need wide aisles, and for maximum convenience should have all products within easy reach.
Indoor spaces are often the downfall of any otherwise accessible location. You could plan a great day out at a local park, only to find that the on-site café is impossible to access in a wheelchair.
Call in advance, or take a picnic if you’re particularly worried about what’s available.
Using a wheelchair brings additional complication to any family day out. Don’t be afraid to ask what people can do for you, and to complain if the response isn’t satisfactory.
Mobility Smart is an online retailer stocking a wide range of products for wheelchair users. There are also electric and manual wheelchairs available to buy.