I have always been in awe of people who possess the enterprising spirit to climb mountains. Their adventure is about facing dangers and challenges with perseverance and courage. Those who have reached the summit describe it as exhilarating and life changing.
Although I do not engage in actual mountaineering, I know this adventure well. For me, as a wheelchair user, a poorly constructed sidewalk curb creates both danger and drama. Let me describe this “mountain”: Most sidewalk curbs have a concrete lip that connects with the street. The rationale for this design flaw is not readily apparent to me. When I ask the reason, most construction workers tell me it’s always been done this way.
Now for the adventure: I’m driving my wheelchair down the sidewalk. I reach a corner and descend onto the lip of the curb. As my front wheels hit the lip, my wheelchair rocks, and the rocking motion dislodges my hand from the wheelchair joystick, leaving me temporarily out of control of my ability to drive.
The challenges and dangers are even greater when the curb lip is broken (which is often the case). My wheelchair tire gets stuck in the broken concrete, and my entire chair tips forward. I imagine this is not unlike the mountain climber whose pick doesn’t take hold on the ice. The context may be different but the end result can be the same: a life or death situation.
If I manage to survive going down the curb, further adventure and risk await me on the other side of the street. To mount the other curb safely, I have to hit the concrete lip straight on—and with speed. If I miss… well, you get the picture.
Think about how many curbs there are to navigate in our towns and cities. If I’m driving any distance, I’m often a wreck by the time I reach my destination.
Mountain climbing is an optional sport in our lives. If you are a person who uses a wheelchair, like me, navigating up and down sidewalk curbs is a daily necessity.
We can solve this problem. Seriously, we can. And I’m convinced that the solution will be more cost effective and sustainable than the current design. To those with innovative minds, young and old, let’s get this problem solved. When we can all reach the summit, then Together We Rock!