The Small Barriers That Mean Inaccessibility as a Wheelchair User

Invincible or Phenomenal, you decide. Photo Credit to Nikki Barker, Instagram:

This is an accessibility review with a difference. It’s not a review of a specific venue as such, but more of an accessibility review of Uxbridge, my local town. This is sort of the story of a trip for coffee (those who know me know I looooooooooooooove my coffee). Now, on the face of it, this doesn’t sound like a blog-worthy trip, but I really believe this shows that even the simplest of pleasures require an #InvincibleWomanOnWheels.

Path Obstructions

Nikki (editor extraordinaire and general goddess) and I hadn’t even officially made it off campus grounds when we encountered our first problem. Someone had crashed into and bent the railings on the path out of campus which made the pavements even skinnier than usual and led to single file walking and very slow driving on my part to make sure the chair didn’t get caught on anything. I understand people crashing into the railings can’t be helped, but maybe if the paths were a little wider this wouldn’t be such an issue. (hint: widen the paths!).

Then came the actual worst part of any walk down any road ever. Rubbish bags or bins on the pavement. I understand that bins need to be left somewhere for bin men to collect them, but can we leave them somewhere it doesn’t obstruct the pavement? Because otherwise, one of us has to move it, and neither of us particularly wants to, because well, touching another person’s rubbish is just kind of gross. But the alternative is me running over, and quite likely splitting, the rubbish bag, and not only is that equally as gross but it’s probably going to annoy the bin men when they have to pick up rubbish strewn across the pavement.

Drop Kerbs

Then we came to what I refer to as partial drop kerbs. The kind where part of the kerb can be considered a drop kerb and part of it really, really, REALLY cannot be considered a drop kerb. This means driving my chair at a specific angle in order to be able to drop down the kerb safely. Want to make a drop kerb? Make a COMPLETE drop kerb, or don’t make a drop kerb at all. This partial drop kerb business is unhelpful and likely causes more issues than it solves.

The amount of times I had to stop the conversation to ask or think about where the nearest drop kerb was was annoying. I don’t want to HAVE to stop a conversation part way through just to be able to find a drop kerb, but they’re that lacking that sometimes stopping the conversation is my only option. So, how about we make drop kerbs the norm for every kerb? It’ll have no impact on those who don’t NEED drop kerbs and make a big difference to those who do.

Speaking of drop kerbs, a lack of them tends to lead to me driving on the road until I can find a safe place to get back on the pavement. As you can imagine, this is super dangerous, because no matter how close I can stick to the kerb, I’ll still run the risk of facing a car and getting hit. This obviously isn’t ideal and, as I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, despite the fact my wheelchair seems road legal, I’ll always lose a battle of wheelchair vs car!

Automatic Doors

Hallelujah we finally made it into the local Starbucks, AAAAAAANNNNNND it has an automatic door. EXCEPT the door is only automated on one side (the outside to be specific) AND even the button to automatically open the door from the outside doesn’t work. So, the automatic is basically pointless. This isn’t a tick box exercise. Just having accommodations like automatic doors isn’t enough, those accommodations have to actually work and be of use to the people who need them!

Card Machines

We finally chose our coffee and snacks and headed to the till to pay. There was a card machine on an extendable cable, super helpful right? Except those cables are never long enough for wheelchair users like me, who are also short, to be able to reach. Card machines likely have to be wireless or there is no difference in my ability to use them. This seems to be another instance of companies seeing accommodations as a tick box exercise where just having accommodations like card machines on cables, is good enough rather than making sure that accommodations are useful to those who need them.


To end on a good note, the staff offering to bring our coffees to the table for us, without me having to ask them to, was a welcome surprise. Thinking about customers’ needs, such as the fact I don’t enough hands to carry a tray of goods and drive my chair at the same time, without them mentioned, is always a win in my book and happens a lot less often than it should.

I hope this post shows how even the smallest accessibility issues can turn simple pleasures into trips requiring an #invinciblewomanonwheels, although I do have to give a super shout out to the actual coffee shop staff who were always super helpful and made up for building/trip accessibility issues!

Stay Invincible!

Em (InvincibleWomanOnWheels)

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