Many people around the world live their daily lives with a disability, or several, and these disabilities may be mental or physical. In fact, current global statistics show that around 10% of the world’s population, over 640 million people, are living with a disability of some sort or other. This disability rate is even higher among the world’s poorest, being closer to 20% or so. Mental disabilities are a different topic, while physical disabilities are those that limit a person’s mobility or self-reliant functions. Common examples may include a person having an amputated limb(s), partial or total paralysis, or a broken arm or leg that is recovering. The good news is that while no one actually likes having a physical handicap, they may appreciate how many wheelchair friendly features may be found in society today. There is a conscious, societal effort to make everyday public life more accommodating to the disabled, and this allows the disabled to have a more self-reliant and active lifestyle than ever before.
Americans and Disabilities
How often to Americans have physical handicaps? It is estimated that in nations with a life expectancy of 70 years or so, people spend around eight years (11.5% of their lifespan) living with disabilities. Today, the American Census Bureau defines disability status by means of six types of questions that may measure a person’s difficulties with hearing, vision, cognition, walking up or climbing down stairs, self-care (the capacity to be self-reliant), and independent living. Statistics show that around 20 million Americans aged 18 and over have significant challenges with climbing or walking up stairs, accounting for 7.1% of all non-institutionalized Americans with disabilities. What is more, there are more disabled Americans than ever before, with this population rising from 11.9% in 2010 to 12.8% in 2016. Similarly, around 3.6 million Americans aged 15 and over are wheelchair-bound, and aside from wheelchair users, some 11.6 million Americans are using canes, walkers, or crutches to maintain their self-reliant mobility. But the good news is that these self-reliant people can expect many accommodations in public, just for them.
Accommodating the Disabled Population
It’s doubtful that anyone actually enjoys being physically disabled, but this population may appreciate how many features in public life are designed to help ease their transportation needs. Many buildings, vehicles, and sidewalks are now designed and built with the disabled in mind. For example, many sidewalks and curbs feature gentle slopes that make it easy for someone in a wheelchair or using a wheeled walker to go up and down without any disruption. What is more, many public buildings are designed with wheelchair and walker friendly ramps, such as schools and office buildings. These ramps may be near but separate from the main stairs and walkway, and may lead the disabled person to the same front doors. The general population is often urged to refrain from using those ramps so that the physically handicapped may always have access to it.
Parking lots also have the physically disabled in mind. Many Americans have probably seen the disabled-only parking spots in a lot before, which are typically located near the building’s front doors. Such parking spots have signs to mark what they are, and they have distinctive blue lines painted on them, too. Such parking spots often have wide zones between each other and the curb (these zones being painted blue) where wheelchair and walker-using people may have enough room to get in and out of vehicles. Regular parking spots, by contrast, allow the cars to park close to each other and have upright-walking people in mind. Finally, many buses and large vans may have a motorized platform that allows a wheelchair-bound user to get on, and be lifted into the vehicle or lowered back out of it. Such vehicles often have dedicated floor space for these passengers and may also include hand rails if need be.
A person may also get repair done for their wheelchair, from wheelchair hand rims or wheelchair inner tubes to new wheelchair tires. In the case of motorized wheelchairs, the motor itself may be repaired if need be, and the wheels and other parts may have machine lubricant added for easier movement and to prevent scraping or jamming.