Imagine the difference one tiny ramp can make

It's fascinating how technology can change life for us disabled persons. Even though I'm a wheelchair user and pretty used to all the assistive technology around me, I recently had a revelatory experience, thanks to a small collapsible ramp.

Stefan Pelc

Title: Web Editor, Writer, Picture Editor and Training Instructor

In order to move around, I use both an electronic wheelchair, as well as a manual one. Both of my chairs have their specific areas of use and their own strengths and weaknesses. My electronic wheelchair is pretty comfortable and I can navigate it myself by using a joystick, but it's heavy and a bit cumbersome when the terrain is uneven. I can't use the manual wheelchair on my own, because of decreased motor function in my hands and arms, but it's easy to fold and transport when flying and it's usable in escalators if I have a seasoned personal assistant to help me.

As well as my wheelchairs, I have a roomy car for transportation. I can easily maneuver my electronic wheelchair into the car. The wheelchair is then secured to the floor with an electronic anchoring device. The car is a great alternative to public transportation when I'm using my electronic wheelchair, since accessibility in those situations can be a bit hit-or-miss sometimes. It takes some research and planning before I go to ride the bus, train or subway, if I'm visiting a place I haven't been before. This is the reality for must of us with motor impairments.

Training to get insights

Here at Funka, we perform practical training for our clients and newly recruited staff where participants get to experince a little bit what it could be like to have some form of disability. Even if it is absolutely not the ”real thing”, it is an eye opener to many. The participants try, among other things, what it's like to navigate the environment in a wheelchair or with a visual impairment. We usually conduct the training outside in an urban environment, so that the participants can experience both solutions and problems with accessibility in a city.

A short while back, we conducted this kind of training for a some new colleagues. We chose a route that led the participants down to the subway, so that everyone could experience the moment of stress that comes when the train opens it's doors and commuters come flooding out. When they're out, you have a few seconds to board the train in a wheelchair. It's important to be able to handle the wheelchair on your own, if at some time there isn't anyone to help you. The biggest hurdle is the gap between the platform and the train, which easily snags the small front wheels of a wheelchair. Should you get stuck, you quickly have to get unstuck before the train operator closes the doors.

For me who use an electronic wheelchair, it's the back wheels causing problems. They always tend to screw with me when I want to board the train. From experience I have learned thet I need to get a good running (so to speak) start in order to board. That way I can avoid getting the back wheels stuck in the gap. This technique, however is very bumpy and quite violent, since I could easily hit other travelers and I have a limited space for breaking. This is obviously not a very good method.

The ramp makes a difference

This is why I was very happy to inaugurate my newly purchased collapsible ramp at the latest of Funka's training sessions. The ramp weighs in at only 3,5 kilos and is easily collapsible and fits in a bag, which hangs off the wheelchair. The clever thing about the ramp is that it doesn't only help in the subway. It's possible to use it in a variety of places, for example for getting in and out of stores with high thresholds and wharfs that haven't been built with accessibility as a top priority. There are many obstacles that can be remedied with a ramp, collapsible or otherwise.

It's fantastic how much a ramp helps making life easier!

Facts about ramps

SL (Stockholms provider of public transport) offers a service where you can order a ramp for a platform of your choosing in order to facilitate boarding and disembarking the train. In order to use this service, you call SL's customer service. The service is available for all subway stations in Stockholm. But using it, means that you need to plan your trip in advance.

A person who wishes to be a bit more independent can buy a collapsible ramp of their own that can be carried around.

Shops, landlords and the public sector can ensure accessible entryways by building or buying fixed ramps. In some cases, a mobile ramp can work. Just make sure that the angle isn't too steep. Also, remember that persons using a walker and a stroller also benefit from ramps.

Related chronicles by Stefan Pelc

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    10 April 2018

    Sweden has been a forerunner when it comes to user-controlled personal assistance for persons with disabilities. But this human right ensuring individual freedom may deteriorate. Funka's web editor Stefan Pelc, who is in need of personal assistance, is concerned about the uncertain situation right now.

  • An accessible allotment

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