Tuesday, April 4, 2006

WE all have special needs



London controller Gord Hume recently spent the day in a wheel chair in support of the Easter Seals campaign and found the city wheel chair ramps in the same condition as London streets.
The automatic door slams shut on London Controller Gord Hume before his wheelchair can make it into a city hall washroom.

"I thought there'd be a way to slide over," he said from behind the stall door.

It's the first time Hume had to use the loo since agreeing to confine himself to a wheelchair yesterday in support of Easter Seals.

[..] It was an eye-opener in more ways than one. Take the moment when part of his chair fell off in the washroom. "It's not as easy as you think it would be," he said, as he steered his wheelchair toward the sinks.

In a trip that would normally take "a minute -- tops," Hume spent almost 10 minutes getting in and out of the the 12th-floor washroom -- one of only two men's rooms in city hall equipped for wheelchairs.

It was a trip he couldn't make earlier at his Byron home, which can't accommodate a wheelchair, he said. Nor was he able to check his mailbox or go on his regular morning walk.
Of course he couldn't do what he normally is accustomed to doing, as he was pretending to be disabled.
And instead of his usual 20-minute car drive to work at city hall, it took Hume an hour to get there, riding in a paratransit van. "And you can't see out the front window. It was very disconcerting to me," he said.

As he wheeled himself up city hall's front ramp, Hume said it was "damn hard" to overcome a dip in the path where concrete is missing.

"Your wheels get stuck there."

Inside, Hume struggled through the double doors outside the councillors' third-floor offices, scraping his knuckles and banging his elbows.

Even reaching for a soup bowl in the cafeteria at lunch was tough for Hume, who's more than six feet tall.
I've always thought that every person should work in a public service job for at least a day. A more intimate acquaintance with coarse manners, haughty demands for prompt service, rude interuptions and general disdain for the employees and facilities that are providing the services and commodities desired, might help to improve some people's behaviour when they are once again on the "public" side of the counter. So, in this sense, riding in someone else's chair could be viewed as a learning experience and might result in greater respect and understanding in future. But we must not forget that Gord Hume is a politician and the special interests he privately endorces may potentially become part of the collective burden.

How are we to simultaneously accomodate the needs of midgets and giants alike?

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