The Prairie Doc Perspective

Wheelchair Discrimination

By Richard P. Holm MD

Several weeks ago I had the honor of helping a close friend of mine, who sometimes requires a wheelchair, to tour around a historic town viewing the wonderful sites, and enjoying museums of art and of history. It was an enlightening experience for me. Prior to this, I had been only vaguely aware of how public bathrooms had changed to make one stall wider, and how curbs had been cut down, which I had noticed made it is easier for kids on tricycles.

Pushing him around in a wheelchair, I noted every curb with and without a disability entrance. I noticed every building with steps and no elevator. I noticed every home that had no way for a wheelchair bound person to easily enter. Too often the doors were very narrow, the hallways un-maneuverable, the sidewalks too cracked or bumpy. More than once we were stopped dead in our tracks as the wheels caught in crack or rut, which would just about thrust my friend out of the wheelchair, and onto the ground. Up to this time I truly hadn’t recognized the extent that we, as a society, discriminate against people with mobility problems.

Before this, I was dimly aware of the Americans With Disabilities Act, and I remember how business people complained, as they felt burdened with this law. Now I more fully realize its value. The law expects public places to make services accessible to those who are disabled by mobility, hearing, sight, or whatever and requires it if federal money is involved.

Think about it, you and I are just one small accident away from paralysis, or a viral infection away from deafness, or a blood sugar away from being blind. Able or disabled, we need to make our world more accessible.

Dr. Rick Holm wrote this Prairie Doc Perspective for “On Call®,” a weekly program where medical professionals discuss health concerns for the general public.  “On Call®” is produced by the Healing Words Foundation in association with the South Dakota State University Journalism Department. “On Call®” airs Thursdays on South Dakota Public Broadcasting-Television at 7 p.m. Central, 6 p.m. Mountain. Visit us at 

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