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Saturday, September 3, 2011

I Hate Stairs. Part 1.

I nabbed the title of this series from my friends at I Hate Stairs.  It's actually a great site, administrated by two good lookin' fellas who really, really hate stairs.

I chose to steal this title from them because as a parent of two kids in wheelchairs, I really do hate stairs.  They do, too.  I scream, you scream, "we all hate stairs."  When the twins come within fifteen yards of an unguarded staircase, I panic and try to remember if I took my blood pressure medication that day.  Even though they are just four years old and are incredibly mature, but that doesn't make me freak out any less.

When it comes to our wheelchairs, I freak out over lots of scenarios.  In fact, whether I have the twins with me or not, I find myself surveying everything about your establishment to determine how wheelchair friendly it is.

Here in the United States, almost every building must be handicap accessible.  But there is a big difference between 'handicap accessible' and 'wheelchair friendly'.

I'll spend my money anywhere once.  If you want me back, you'd better be wheelchair friendly.  If you want me to not complain about your lack of accessibility, then fix it.  This "I Hate Stairs" series serves as a forum for me to vent about establishments who are wheelchair-ignorant.  It's not that I hate you, it's that I hate that my children can't come into your store.  It's a fine line between me bitching about a bad experience and you taking my feedback seriously because maybe just maybe we're not the only family with wheelchairs who dreads patronizing you because we cause a scene just trying to enter your store.

I'm not EVEN going to address Gymboree here.  Every family with a stroller hates Gymboree's lack of accessibility.  That's a given.  Oh c'mon, Gymoree--like you didn't know?  QUIT PACKING 30 CIRCULARS INTO 400 SQUARE FEET OF SPACE.  That we still purchase your product at all means that moms who are desperate for adorable, quality children's clothing also have some child-less time during the week when we can visit you without strollers.  Or wheelchairs.  Do you catch my drift?  Stop that strategy of blocking your doorways with tables of corduroys on sale for $19.50--that's all we can even see because we can't navigate a stroller into your store for all the mother effing displays.  Whew.  Okay then, stepping off my Gymboree soap box.  So, I guess I addressed Gymboree even though I promised not to.  Gymboree:  I really do love your product.  If I could ever reach your cashiers to buy it, you'd be in the black.  I pinky swear.

No, this "I Hate Stairs" series will be focused on specific local establishments.  Do you own an establishment in the Phoenix metro area?  Is it wheelchair friendly?  If not, then maybe you can look forward to finding yourself highlighted in this series someday.

I've got news for you, world--if my kids' wheelchairs can't get into your store, then neither can most medical strollers.  And twin strollers.  And senior citizens in walkers.  If you have steps at your entrance, then you darned well better have an alternate entrance--or you will lose business.

Seriously, I am done with apologizing to YOU because my kids can't get into your store so that I can buy something.  Our wheelchairs are not temporary inconveniences, they are our reality and I will apologize for inconveniencing you as soon as you find a cure for neuromuscular disease.  I will not stand for ambivalence and apathetic attitudes for another minute.  If you aren't in a designated historic building, build my kids a damned ramp.

Now, excuse me for a moment while I take the children to Wal-Mart BECAUSE THEY HAVE NO BARRIERS TO THE ENTRANCE AND ALSO WIDE AISLES AND AN UNDERSTANDING ATTITUDE.  That may be the first/only compliment I make to Wal-Mart--but they get it.  You don't.  Suck on that, able-bodied smaller-retail decision makers.


  1. So agree! We've gone into clothing stores, namely Tilly's. And their Accessable dressing room was being used for storage. Scarlette wasn't in her chair, but stroller so they looked at us like what do you care. Then we explained it and related it to them. What if they were in a chair and wanted to try on some stylish teen age clothes. They couldn't and it would be very embarrassing.

    Well long story short they had all those boxes cleared out and felt really bad. One girl even had a family member in a chair and it didn't dawn on her.

    If we are some where that isn't wide enough for Scarlette's chair it so makes me angry. Whether she is with us or not at the time we let it be know, If Scarlette is with us I start to rearrange the store so my girl can shop freely.

    This is her world and we are all just living in it.

  2. I completely agree!

    But what enrages me, even in your scenario, is that you know she hears these conversations as they happen. As the twins get older, I've become acutely aware at how much they pay attention to. I will never forget the one time when I was 7 and my mom--who is normally completely docile and non-confrontational--made a scene at Kroger's because they wouldn't take some coupon. I was mortified. I figure it's like that times one hundred when I make a big deal about some dumbass store.

    It's not just about being accessible--it's about not making my preschooler feel like we're fighting about her in the middle of your store. You know what I mean? It enrages me.

    I refuse to completely blow up at these places in real life and in real time, which is why I started this series. I already have a list of places to whom I plan on telling the time. FFS.

    And we are not the only ones! My dad is 55 years old and just had knee replacement surgery. He faces the same challenges my four year olds face! I'll never understand it.

  3. This is a very good post, thank you very much for this! You write it exactly like I feel and like many other wheelchair users do.

    Do you know the site It is a simple map based on OpenStreetMap where you can see for all kinds of places how wheelchair accessible they are and also mark them yourself so that others can see. That project was started in Germany, so I don't know how much activity there is in the USA, but you can have a look.