Saturday, October 25, 2014

Designed to Help Disabled? 'Normal' Persons May Not Understand Disabled Life.

As a disability challenged person living in a world designed for 'normal' people, everyday brings on tough new gauntlets to navigate.
Publix bicycle rack is also the location for employee smoke breaks.
As a disabled cyclist I am forced to walk through second hand cigarette smoke to use the Publix Bike Rack
Unfortunately as the world moves ahead with new buildings, roads, cities and infrastructure, those of us who face life physical and mental challenges are still being left far behind.

Yes, there are many advocate groups who do good and help keep the issue of being 'different' than most out in the spotlight, and I am thankful for these efforts.  Groups such as the National Organization on Disability, American Association of People with Disabilities, The Arc, the National Disability Rights Network, and others all have a web presence.  Some offer links to helpful references and other provide useful information such as contact telephone numbers and addresses.

Yet even though advocacy groups may influence broad reaching policy decisions and have a positive effect on me as a 'disabled' person, I still encounter needless and thoughtless situations where I am discriminated against daily, especially with respect to access and transportation.

Yes, today there are many marked improvements in our surroundings and cities that have a profound effect for good for those of us living the disabled life.

Granted, most of us disabled persons can now use sidewalks with non-skid ramps instead of a steep curb, and rely on cross-lights that talk, whistle or beep to alert us of changes in traffic flows.  Too, there are automatic doors and widened bathroom stalls with reachable sinks.  Even most public transportation systems are 'disabled' friendly now, in many ways.  This is all well and good but there is still so much room for simple, straightforward and uncomplicated improvement.

Sometimes the most simplest, obvious things that can help a physically or mentally challenged person are those things 'normal' people tend to overlook and are the easiest for the world in general to forget.

For instance, I bike my world.  I have to bike my world because my drivers license is medically suspended due to my dissected aorta and side effects of the medications I take to keep my heart just barely beating in 'anti-rupture' mode. I am 'OK' with living my life as a cyclist though it presents difficulty at times.

Our local grocery store, Publix on Palm Coast Parkway has graciously installed a bicycle rack to the left of and not too far away from the front door.  I am grateful for the bike rack.  Many stores or facilities, even those you would think would have bike racks, do not provide bike racks.  But they all provide a massive amount of parking spaces in huge asphalt or concrete paved parking lots for the car drivers.

Back to the bike rack.  I am grateful to Publix for the bike rack availability.  I love their grocery store and they are one of the few places where I can purchase high quality, reasonably priced organic foods.  I depend on healthy foods to support my kidneys (which are recovering from total failure after open heart surgery) and my dissected cardiovascular system.  Unfortunately Publix employees keep forgetting that as a cyclist who uses the bike rack I must breath in all the second hand cigarette smoke their employees cough out when they take their smoke breaks immediately adjacent the awesome galvanized bike station.

This is just a typical example of 'normal' people not having a clue what the physically or mentally challenged persons have to go through to adapt to the 'normal' world.

I have sought out the store managers and asked repeatedly to have the employee smoke station moved away from the bicycle rack area.  The tall young female manager usually makes this happen for a day or so but then the entire must breath second hand smoke begins all over again.  I ask again and the smoking stops for a day or so yet begins once more soon afterwards.

Compounding the problem, customers who exit the store see the employees smoking and light up right next to the bike rack also.  
As a disabled cyclist I am forced to walk through second hand cigarette smoke to use the Publix Bike Rack
'Normal' people - those driving cars - don't have to walk through the smoke, rather they walk in through the front doors through areas away from the smoker break section.  If the employee smoke break section was adjacent the front door and 'normal' customers had to walk through the smoke, the smoking would immediately cause an uproar from 'normal' persons.

There is a very easy solution to this problem.  Publix should install a 'No Smoking' sign around all store entryways AND the bike rack area.  It should be obvious that if I purchase organic foods, those fruits and vegetables and meats free from pesticide, herbicide, antibiotic  and hormone contamination, then I also want to breath clean air.  I especially do not want to re-breath air hacked out by a smoker.

Second hand cigarette smoke just really does not fit the image of a Publix grocery store either.  So I don't get it.  But I am not a 'normal' person.  I am a person living with 'disability' issues.  I suppose the only way to get things changed is to raise awareness.  If asking does not work, continue to raise awareness by blogging about it.

A 'No Parking' sign may be too obvious also.   So after the second hand smoke from Publix employees, I had to deal with a construction truck driver who decided to park on the way home sidewalk and probably had no idea how important a clear sidewalk was to a person in a wheelchair or on a bike.

It is hard enough to navigate the construction areas around Palm Coast Parkway.  No pedestrian access is provided through or around construction areas during the ongoing widening project of the roadway.  Yes, access was provided for automobiles but none for pedestrians or for those in wheelchairs or on bicycles.  I do not think this was an intentional oversight.  Rather I think 'normal' people just don't have any concept of what it is like to life of a physically or mentally challenged person.
Automobile drivers have little concept of what life without a car is like.  For those with a disability a sidewalk can make life doable.  When the sidewalk is blocked this presents a potential to fall or otherwise injure one's self.
So to most parking a truck on a side walk is no big deal.  But to me, carrying bags of groceries on my bike it is a big deal.  I have to slow, stop, dismount my bike (hard enough under normal conditions) and walk around the truck, hoping my Marfan weakened ankle doesn't give out or my bike turn sideways off the sidewalk edge, spilling the groceries across the grass.  To me it could actually cause physical injury.
One would think a large construction company would recognize the need for disability and pedestrian access around construction projects.
A 'No Parking' sign along the sidewalk would be way too obvious.

Sure, people without disabilities have to deal with these second hand smoke and blocked sidewalk-no pedestrian access issues too.  But they are not forced to do so.  They have the option of their automobile.  If I want to carry any amount of groceries home I need my bike.   The Publix bike rack is right in the middle of the employee smoke break section.  

So I will continue to write about these challenges and maybe someone out there with a child, brother or sister or friend who struggles with life's physical and mental challenges, someone who is also 'in charge' at a grocery store or construction company or other corporation of governmental entity might read this and say 'I can help make a change'.

It doesn't hurt to ask.  It does hurt to continue to have to breath second hand cigarette smoke or twist an ankle or break a leg trying to navigate an automobile-less world.

Speak up if you have a life challenge.  Awareness is the only way we can make the world a easier place for those of us today with disabilities and for subsequent generations.

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