In a wheelchair? Sometimes

John Taylor: August 17, 20122 Comments

Knee surgery, a wheelchair will be involved at some point. Going home from obstetrics with your baby, wheelchair. Possible events that might put you --- briefly or near-permanently – in a wheelchair are as numerous as grains of sand in a large hourglass.

My spouse and my late mother-in-law each experienced prolonged periods getting into, out of and trying to muster up a good version of life aided by a wheelchair.  My house is “wheelchair friendly” – thanks to a very foresightful gentleman who constructed it that way for his mother-in-law. One shower even has a tile bench.

“Wheelchair friendly” and “handicapped accessible” sometimes earn negative media and nasty online postings when paired up with attorneys who’ve filed suit, often against small businesses or local governments, requiring them to modify their stores or streets to meet regulations, sometimes at great cost.

What brings the seeming inevitability of wheelchairs to mind is an opinion piece published in the August 17 Wall Street Journal by former Major League Baseball commissioner Fay Vincent – the man who banned (temporarily) one of my favorite Yankee owners, the late George Steinbrenner, from baseball for paying a gambler to dig up dirt on a player.

Vincent, who travels in moneyed circles, recounts how he’d been invited to speak at a prominent New York City’s men’s club – but they lacked appropriate toilet facilities because the Americans with Disabilities Act exempts private clubs.

Vincent also encountered problems getting X-rays at a Florida medical facility, navigating tight turns in a New York orthopedic hospital and inadequate shower railings at hotels – with one hotel CEO telling him, “There are not many people like you visiting the top-level hotels so it does not make business sense to cater to the handicapped.”

Vincent is talking about the need for toilets with suitable bars and seats about four inches higher than normal, and door sills that don’t require a motorized wheelchair or a trucker’s strength to get through. I for one appreciate grab bars in hotels where I stay as well as what any business does to be sensitive to the incrementalisms of genetics.

Not that it matters, and Vincent didn’t say this in the piece, but he was a star athlete until a freak dorm prank ended with him falling off a four-story building and disabling him for life.

Vincent concludes his Journal piece this way: “The big stuff, including ramps and elevators, is done and welcome. I think the little things require little more than some good people paying attention.”

Hear, hear.

2 responses to In a wheelchair? Sometimes


I have M. S. I've had it for longer than not so now it's just a part of life. Walking can be a problem. But even when I'm walking ok I can tell if the floor is even or not, and I'm always on the look out for where the elevators are hidden. When I go to a new building I try to imagine how I would get in if I was on wheels. Sometimes it would be easy. Or sometimes like the building I work in I figure I'd have to get help to open the door. Kudos to all who go through this ever day.

I have an amusing story from

I have an amusing story from about 3 years ago involving assess for the disabled. I was in a cast and on crutches due to three breaks in my right ankle. I was being seen by a great CMC physician located in the old Medical Office Building(Hint - it used to be 110 Valeria). I was trapped outside the heavy door going into the office with another patient who was in a wheelchair, neither of us could open the door and keep it open long enough to navigate inside. We did a pretty good stand up comedy routine together until another person came along who was accompanied by a non-disabled person who held the door for all of us. There was no problem with front door or elevator, but that door defeated me at each appointment for several months. You really do not appreciate how difficult it is until it is you (or someone close to you. I failed to count the number of rest rooms I was trapped in until someone else had the call of nature

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