Sorry for the late post today but, hey, it’s been one of those weeks (well, months). For those of you who’ve been reading the blog relatively regularly recently will know that I recently highlighted the latent discriminatory nature of the table-legs of a certain type of café table. I think it is time, though, that I bring up a similar, related issue: the height of certain appliances/counters that make life that much more difficult for those of us in wheelchairs. Namely, there are three things, in particular, I have a grudge against Table/Counter Height, Light Switches, and Self-Closing Doors.
I had this problem recently when I went to see The Tale of Irma Vep at the Theatre on The Bay a couple of weeks ago. Before the show started I wanted to order a coffee while I waited for people to shuffle their way into the theatre before I took my seat in the customary empty space they leave available for wheelchairs. The problem with this plan of ‘world coffee domination’ was by the time I got to the Coffee Counter I found that to the barista I must have looked like a disembodied head as the counter itself came up to my neck height.
This was by far not the first time that because of society’s unwritten code as to what is an acceptable height of a table left me feeling like some kind of alien life-form that is incapable of properly interacting with whatever it was I set out to do. Yes, I can still reach to grab a couple of things here and there from a slightly-too-high counter but the safety factor is dramatically reduced – needless to say, that makes for a rather uncomfortable fact when dealing with coffee.
Sure, I get it, people (read ‘bipeds’) need to be able to reach whatever it is easily but I don’t see how raising a counter by a foot/half-foot would make a difference so dramatic that people would complain the tables are too low. The 6-inch drop, though, would make life so much easier to reach things on a practical level even if wheelchair-users are subject somewhat to the ‘disembodied head syndrome’.
Again, I see no reason why these can’t be moved down slightly. What difference can it make in any real way to bipedals? It would, however, make a world of difference to those of us who spend a majority of our time seated.
Just before writing this post, I was going out of my lounge at around 10pm and decided to turn the light off on my way out of the room – perfectly simple. Nope. I had to go back into the room, put my laptop down, and then stretch an additional 3 or 4-inches above my head to reach the light switch.
I get beyond frustrated with these things. Why must there be an abundance of self-closing doors in so many places? I get it, it makes life easier for the ‘normals’ as they don’t have to turn on their heels and close doors behind them. Convenience is important. What a lot of places don’t realise though is while it is convenient for some, a lot of people with less-than-perfect mobility can find that doors that close on you before you’ve made it through the door to be off-putting and, sometimes, dangerous.
I’m in a wheelchair. As a result, I am slower in certain situations as there is more ‘admin’ to go through – it’s a fact. To then have to add the worry of a door swinging/sliding back on me and/or my Service Dog because I am unable to move out of the way fast enough or agile enough to fit through the half-closed and rapidly-closing door on my way into a building is kind of ridiculous.
Granted, not everything can be wheelchair-accessible as that would create other untenable situations down the line but I think some of the systems we have in place at the moment, in a majority of South Africa at least, could be improved dramatically making the daily lives of people with mobility issues, wheelchair-users especially, that much more productive which would further their independence.