Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wheelchair Accessible?

Yesterday, I watched three people help a wheelchair-bound man get on a bus.  This particular bus did not have a wheelchair lift, hydraulic lift system, or any other specialized equipment for helping physically challenged riders.  While the rest of us waited in our queue, the bus driver and two others held the wheelchair while the man pulled himself on to the steps at the back door.  He was able to use his legs as leverage enough to turn around and sit, then pull himself up into a seat.  His young helper (perhaps his 9 year old grandson?) held his personal belongings, and then the others put his bag of goods (a big net bag of maduros) and wheelchair in the storage compartment below the bus.  We all got on, and the bus took off.  I got off before he did, so I didn't see how everyone managed the reverse.  But I imagine that the driver stopped, got out, removed the wheelchair and stuff, and helped the man get settled before leaving the stop. 

Another bus line that I use regularly has a wheelchair lift.  I saw it used once, and it was pretty elaborate.  Everyone waited patiently (and curiously, I think) while the lift was let down to the sidewalk, the man wheeled on, it lifted him up, and he settled into the space right at the lift.

So much of Costa Rica is not set up for those who use wheelchairs (or walkers or scooters, etc).  The sidewalks are so rough, it's even a challenge for us to walk around without falling (it used to be our "rule" that each time we came to Costa Rica, one of us had to fall).  I have seen a couple of service dogs, and quite a few red-tipped canes, but I honestly don't know how they do it.  Many (most?) houses and apartments don't have much doorway clearance, several steps at the entryway are common, as are sidewalk steps when the roadway gets steep (often, in this mountainous country).  I grew up with stairs, and am used to running up and down - you get used to a certain space between risers and so you bound just that much.  Well, my bruised knees are here to tell you, that is not a good habit to have here...

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