A Day in The Life With a Wheelchair - a first-person perspective - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

A Day in The Life With a Wheelchair - a first-person perspective

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Getting around in the physical world is something many of us may take for granted.  Stairs, thresholds, obstructions, sidewalk gratings, narrow passages - are all barriers we walk over, through, around, all throughout the day. For those who do have some physical difficulties, however - a curb or a few stairs can be large barriers.

Physical features that people without physical disabilities take for granted can present serious problems for people with different abilities, mostly because their needs haven't been considered in designing those features.

I had the opportunity to work with the Department of Integrated Services for Individuals with Disabilities, and as part of the Americans with Disabilities Awareness Month - I took a few hours out of the day for a Day in The Life With a Wheelchair. I will say this was no easy feat for me. Without the help of my trusty cameraman "Joe Sir" Termulo, I don't think I would have been able to get around as easily.

According to DISID Director, Ben Servino there are between 12,000 to 13,000 people with disabilities that have been identified on Guam. But Servino says he feels there may be more who either don't want to report or have more hidden disabilities. Today was surely an experience I was grateful to participate in, it gave me perspective and insight on what those with physical impairments experience.

While I did have a wheelchair, I did not have accessible parking - understandably so ... as this was simulated. So at the legislature, we parked elsewhere. It was quite tiring..actually pretty hard.

The Guam Congress Building did have ADA compliant parking and ramps - but I did struggle with trying to get the doors open. According to Servino, automatic doors are not required for ADA compliance.

Going to the restroom, reaching for things high up, and getting around are all things we can do on a daily basis - and after today I have a new perspective on things. I've spent years dancing hula - so today's experience come with insights I will never take for granted or for forget.

Disabilities can be visible or invisible, physical or otherwise. Most can result either from hereditary conditions or pre-birth developmental issues, from injury, from disease, from or from chemical imbalances.

Ensuring accessibility for people with disabilities means more than building ramps and accessible restrooms. It calls for a change in basic attitudes and understanding that individuals with disabilities are individuals who are not defined by their disabilities.

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