Commentary: A Sidewalk Obstacle Course

Share |
(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, June 30, 2006

My very delightful but increasingly frail mother moved into my house a year ago.  She's been blind for years, but healthy.  We like to go on walks in the evening, but she was diagnosed recently with a degenerative bone condition.

Walking became painful, so we got a wheelchair.  Right away, things like curb cuts, wheelchair ramps and well-maintained sidewalks - the lack of them, or, in my neighborhood, the serendipitous nature of them - became very, very important.

The sidewalk that separates my mom and me from the neighborhood park has one of those old-fashioned sharp high curbs.  If I pushed her wheelchair over that curb head-on, she would pitch forward and topple over.  The only way to safely negotiate such a barrier is to tip the chair back and then slide the back wheels down the curb - a difficult maneuver that requires upper body strength I don't possess.

I have to plan my routes now.  Some corners in my neighborhood have curb cuts.  Others, inexplicably, do not.  Where there are no cuts, I seek out gently sloping driveways.  I share the street with cars a lot.  Our city keeps the streets in good repair, a potent sign of what mode of transportation we truly value.

Try a wheelchair.  Even better, put someone you love into one, your child or your mother.  Wheel them around for an hour.  Suddenly, as my blind mother would say, you begin to see.


Ginger Rutland writes for the Sacramento Bee Opinion pages.