Summertime and the living is not so easy for those of us living with disabilities

Many of us who live with disabilities have a love/hate relationship with summer. Those whose disabilities are impacted by winter’s […]

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Many of us who live with disabilities have a love/hate relationship with summer. Those whose disabilities are impacted by winter’s cold and icy conditions welcome the chance to be outdoors more. It’s great to be able to be outside and not worry about a slip and fall on ice. Those of us who use chairs or other mobility devices don’t miss wheeling through the snow. 

Many of us do struggle with the need to stay cool. But while we cannot change the weather, there are issues we’d like to see addressed. Call it our summer sidewalks wish list, with three wishes to help us get around. 

Our first wish is to coexist with sidewalk cafes. Outdoor dining is in full swing in many places. Enjoying a meal or cup of coffee outdoors is one of our summer pleasures. 
What’s not a pleasure is trying to navigate a sidewalk where tables and chairs block the path. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the minimum clear width for single wheelchair passage shall be 32 inches (815 mm). That has to be maintained continuously, to enable someone to get through. 

And that is a minimum. We know there are wider wheelchairs out there that wouldn’t be able to clear such a tight space. And single clearance means friends and caregivers travel single file, not side by side. 

As coffee shop and restaurant patrons move tables and chairs around, compliance is not always the case. It can be difficult but not impossible for wheelchairs to get through some busy restaurant districts as every single establishment has to have its tables and chairs out. 

Asking for compliance can be met with pushback. After all, patrons have paid to enjoy their meals. But compliance is not an option and it’s up to businesses to comply. Even marking a sidewalk with chalk or tape could be helpful, so that staff and patrons know where they can and cannot be seated. 

Our second wish is for shared bicycles and e-scooters to travel and be parked where they belong. Scooters and bikes are popping up in more and more communities as a means of getting around. It’s easy for many people to use an app, find a scooter or bike, and then hop on for a quick trip or just for fun. 

It’s not as much fun when bike and scooter riders use sidewalks. In our experience the stickers asking that the vehicles not be ridden or parked on sidewalks are all often disregarded.  

Those of us with all kinds of disabilities cannot easily jump out of the way when a scooter zooms up in front of or behind us. We cannot navigate around parked bikes and scooters or vehicles that are flat on the sidewalk. Many of us cannot lift or move those abandoned scooters and bikes. 

The Minneapolis Sidewalk Hunters and other groups are working year-round on access issues. But we need to not have to file complaints all of the time. Compliance needs to be enforced before e-scooter and bike companies have their licenses renewed. 

Our third wish for folks to keep storm drains near their homes and businesses cleared of sticks, leaves, grass cuttings and other debris. Those can accumulate at this time of year. When there is a heavy rain, storm drains back up and sidewalks are obstructed. For many of us with disabilities, it’s not a matter of hopping through the puddles. 

After a June downpour in the east metro area, we saw people with disabilities struggling to get around and not have to walk or wheel through deep puddles at corners. Just a few minutes’ attention to a storm drain can make a big difference! 

One more thing 

Access Press is always pleased to report on the Minnesota State High School League adapted sports tournaments. The final tournaments of 2022-2023 are in this issue. 
Kudos to our community’s prep bowlers, softball players, and track and field athletes. it’s been fun to see athletes and teams shine. (We also really enjoy the fun nicknames some teams have.) 

We are very proud of the fact that Minnesota has always been a leader in adapted sports. We are proud of the many pioneering prep athletes and coaches who got the sports started, and into the league’s fold. 

We add big thanks to the Minnesota State High School League for their work in organizing and covering sports season and the tournaments themselves. It takes time to organize sports, provide resources for coaches and officials, prepare tournament brackets and sites, and provide detailed information on the tournaments themselves. 

The thing we’d like to see changed is how tournaments are named. We have a PI and CI divisions for most sports, and ASD added for bowling. ASD of course is autism spectrum disorder. 

The “I” in PI and CI is for impairments, and we’d kindly suggest that the acronym may need a refresh. Perhaps the teams could be asked if it’s time for new division names and what those names should be. While ideas might not be as creative as, say, the nickname Blazing Cats, it might be a fun exercise and one that generates more pride in our sports. 

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