Six weeks ago, I traded in my hiking boots for a walking cast when I fractured my right ankle. A glorious hiking season came to an abrupt end with one quick fall on a hiking trail.
Thankfully, the fracture wasn’t severe. I’m now in the process of transitioning out of the walking cast and set to begin physical therapy soon.
Two summers ago, I wasn’t as lucky. I heard a bone break when I took a fall on a forest path. My left ankle had fractured in several places and I had to have surgery to pin it back together. I spent eight weeks in a walking cast, followed by several months of physical therapy to regain strength and range of motion.
Both ankle injuries impacted my daily life. Two years ago, I had to rely on crutches to help me get around. This time I was able to get around with the aid of a cane. Stairs, hills and unpaved terrain were challenging, and sometimes impossible. Biking was out and so was working in the garden.
My temporary mobility impairment has given me a renewed appreciation for the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for people with disabilities in employment, government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation. It’s because of the ADA, that many (but not all) of our street corners have curb ramps, elevators and ramps are installed in our public facilities, and much more.
My neighborhood is a walkable one and I live within five blocks of grocery stores, banks, pharmacies, a hardware store, numerous restaurants and coffee shops, the farmers market, and the transit center. I can walk to almost any service in about five minutes—until I broke my ankle. With the cane, my travel time is now about ten minutes. When I had to rely on crutches it took even longer. Crutching was also taxing on my shoulders and arms.
But the point is I can still get around. Those curb ramps make it easier for me to cross streets in a walking cast and crutches/cane. For someone in a wheelchair, curb ramps make it POSSIBLE to cross a street on their own. Likewise for kneeling transit buses. They greatly improve bus access for people with limited mobility.
Who else benefits from these ADA accessibility improvements? Everyone. Delivery people with hand trucks, teens on skateboards and parents with strollers use curb ramps at street intersections all the time. People with rolling luggage and shoppers with rolling carts take advantage of the kneeling buses. Wheelchair users need ramps and elevators to access train stations, overhead walkways and multi-story buildings. But plenty of other folks use elevators and ramps for convenience.
ADA improvements make our neighborhoods and communities friendlier for everyone. From wheelchair users and people with limited vision to parents with toddlers to the elderly, we all benefit.