Mobility challenges can prevent people from enjoying their everyday lives. A fear of becoming immobilized by pain can make it difficult to venture out or participate in community events.
“I don’t go if I worry that it will be too far to walk. I stay home.”
Some of the challenges stem from the nature of the mobility disability – the fact that its consequences are variable and unpredictable. Some stem from embarrassment at having to ask for help or refuse to engage in walking or standing when severe pain is likely to be the consequence. Some stem from negative attitudes encountered or design elements that make the environment inaccessible. Being aware that these challenges are shared can help.
- One’s ability to walk unaided without severe pain varies from day to day and from morning to evening.
- One may begin walking across an open space and suddenly become immobilized by pain between one step and the next, with nowhere to sit down.
- It can be difficult to explain that the “short distance” “right over there” is actually too far to walk without severe pain.
- If one needs to stand in line for service, it can be challenging to find a way to sit down while preserving one’s position in the line.
- One may be embarrassed to claim disability or request assistance because after all one can walk – some.
- The constant need for self-advocacy can be exhausting.
Community – attitudinal barriers:
- When one walks away from a vehicle with a disabled parking decal, others often assume that there is no disability and the use of the decal is illegal.
- People become impatient very quickly when someone is moving slowly and thus “blocking” foot traffic.
Community – environmental barriers:
- Planners assume that reducing street parking will encourage the use of bicycles. They forget about persons with hidden mobility disabilities.
- City codes assume that parking within 1-2 blocks is “accessible” parking but that is significantly further than persons with hidden mobility disabilities can walk.
- Concerns about the environment and quality of life result in a focus on walking or “walkable cities” but again the distances to be walked are far beyond the capacity of persons with hidden mobility disabilities.