Voice for the handicapped, elderly

As we age, old injuries come back to haunt us and at times with a vengeance. At age 25, I had a diving accident and injured several lumbar vertebrae, and at age 27, I fractured my second cervical vertebra in a car accident. I believe there is nothing cute about a VW Bug which I was driving at the time of the accident.

So I have a handicapped designation on my car which entitles me to park in spots designated for me and others like me.

As the American population continues to age at a rapid rate with medical interventions and better nutrition, more businesses need to accommodate older clients. There has been some progress with our ability to drive-through for groceries and prescriptions and the ability to shop from home on the computer or other devices and have items delivered to our doors.

Some, however, want to actually shop, see what’s available at grocery stores and all manner of businesses. We want to ask questions; we want to compare; we might buy items we had never considered once we see them, thus increasing the bottom line for businesses.

This brings me to an incident a few days ago in which I was shopping for evergreens for my front porch containers because last year’s plantings have died.

I drove up with my engine still running to ask if I could have the plants put in my car. One of the clerks at the store yelled at me three times, “You can’t park in the fire lane.” I am neither deaf nor stupid and I speak English, rather fluently I might add.

I learned in those few minutes a host of things. A person more handicapped than I cannot shop at that location. This made me consider grocery-buying chores. Many of us know that some members of our households are better at shopping. They actually check the fruits and vegetables for spoilage and read the expiration dates on milk, yogurt, bread and the like.

Once the persons best at shopping exit the store — and many partners prefer to sit in the car and nap or listen to music — there is no place to sit with loaded carts while their drivers wake up to the buzz of their cell phones and know shoppers are ready to head home. And heaven forbid if someone has no phone, has not charged a phone, or has left it at home.

We need benches outside of stores. I know there are problems with some using these benches at stores to hang out, have a smoke, or strike up a romance, and that’s why signs are made: Handicapped Seating Only.

And for large garden centers, surely there is a space on the property for perhaps two vehicles so that clerks can actually help people who can’t lift heavy pots or walk distances and then wait in line to pay.

ADA became law in 1990, and I understand why my local post office can’t destroy the structural integrity of its historic building to accommodate the handicapped, but surely they can be smart enough to implement solutions to lack of accessibility. I’d begin with a bench inside the post office so that when persons have struggled up the stairs with their packages and the line or lines are long, there would be a place to sit, to recover from the climb.

So today I’m asking business owners to assess the ways in which they accommodate — or fail to accommodate — persons who are not able-bodied. Once the assessment has been completed, look for solutions. Talk to those who understand the issues while engaging in this process. It’s difficult to know if you have not walked in their moccasins or navigated the world in their wheelchairs.

And perhaps cities and towns across the country might consider an annual award to businesses that are friendly to those of us who need accommodations.

Contact Dr. Vivian Blevins at vbblevins@woh.rr.com.