People who live with disabilities face various challenges in their daily activities, and as a healthcare student, it is imperative for me to understand them in order to offer adequate care. The difficulties faced by disabled individuals often remain unnoticed by the typical healthy people, since it is arduous for an average person to comprehend the severity of such problems without having a first-hand experience with similar situations. Therefore, to understand the unique issues and limitations that people with disabilities face, I decided to explore a mall setting from the point of view of a wheelchair-dependent person.
Part 1: Mall Assignment
Before beginning the task, I conducted a brief research on the local malls available in order to choose the best option. Eventually, I settled on Regency Square Mall. I chose this particular mall as it was consistent with the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design. Thus, it offered services such as scooter and wheelchairs rentals for the elderly and physically challenged individuals. It also had a designated parking spot for people living with disabilities.
I arrived at the mall around noon, as it was conveniently accessible from our main campus. I used the public transportation network to get there. There were no valet parking services at the main entrance, and directions to the car park for people with disabilities were not readily available. I imagine that a person living with a disability and visiting the mall for the very first time would have a hard time finding the parking bay, let alone a parking spot, considering the lack of clear directions for the mall compound. I located the car park for people with disabilities at the furthest end, in a vast space that was adequately protected from direct sunlight and rain. There was enough room to get in and out of a customized vehicle safely and comfortably for the physically challenged. However, the parking bay was 120 yards away from the Information desk, where wheelchairs were located, thereby making it difficult for a physically challenged person to acquire one without assistance.
After entering the mall, I went to the Information desk and acquired a wheelchair. The service providers were very respectful and gentle in the assistance, which made me feel appreciated and well attended. They offered me a guide containing the general information about the mall, including details of the various stores available to enhance my shopping experience. I decided to start my exploration by moving around the mall from one end to the other. I used my hands to navigate my wheelchair, an action that was not only tiresome, but also infuriating. Everyone else seemed to mind their own business, and nobody offered to help me, not even the staff who was strategically positioned at various locations in the mall. This made me feel neglected — later I even found myself stressed out and mad at the world for not caring. There were also a lot of people moving around in various directions, thereby making it difficult for me to navigate freely from one point to the other for fear of colliding with another person.
I decided to stop at the Food Court which was on the ground floor, in order to acquire something to eat. However, I was not impressed with what I encountered — the cashier did not notice me enter, so I had to clear my throat to capture his attention. The counter was way higher than my eye level, thereby making it difficult for me to maintain eye contact with the service provider and view the menu. This made me feel discouraged and dissuaded from visiting the Food Court again. Nonetheless, the cashier was very helpful, and he offered me a print-out list of different types of foods offered. After I settled for a hamburger, he wrapped it for me tightly and provided all further assistance that was required. He then directed me to the right, where I saw their designated place for the physically impaired to enjoy their food. The place was well spacious, and trash cans were tactically positioned at the specific sites for easier disposal.
My next stop was at the clothing store which was in the second-floor departments and which warranted the use of the elevator which was not openly visible. I had to ask one of the staff for direction to the nearest one since there were no elevators designated for the physically challenged. This made it difficult for me to enter the elevator, as there was limited space and a lot of individuals entered at the same time. Some were disrespectful as they took advantage of my inability to enter the elevator in time and fill the space. I had to wait until they were inside before entering the elevator as well. I felt agitated from the ordeal, and no one seemed to care about it.
After arriving at the clothing store, I noticed that there were wide aisles for me to move around while in the wheelchair. Nonetheless, the overhead signs that included information on where to find different types of items were very high, thereby making it difficult for me to read. I could not even reach the things that were above standard-height levels without asking for assistance from a member of the staff. I settled on several dresses and a few pants, and one of the staff members directed me to the fitting room. The changing closet had a limited space, hence I found fitting of my clothes, especially on my lower part of the body, tough to accomplish. This made me feel helpless and embarrassed, as I was ashamed to ask for help from the staff. As a result, I just picked a pair of jeans based on the approximate size and paid for it.
I came across the restroom at the end of the hallway next to the cashier’s office, and decided to relieve myself. I maneuvered myself into the lavatory, to the designated commodes for the physically impaired. Opening the doors seemed comfortable, but closing it proved to be tough as space was limited and I couldn’t turn to shut the door. Positioning myself at the toilet was also quite challenging, as there were no support bars on the side.
As a result, I found the shopping experience for the physically impaired as a tough task. This is because, despite the mall complying with the ADA’s Standards for Accessible Design, there is still much that needs to be improved. Various structural models within the shopping mall need to be improved in order to make the shopping experience for people with disabilities more pleasant. I will use my observations to offer more efficient care to the individuals with disabilities, as by going through the ordeal, I can now relate to the challenges they face on a daily basis. Therefore, I will be patient and caring toward them, and I will always offer assistance whenever they need it, without them necessarily asking for help.
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Part II: Interview with a Disabled Person
In an attempt to further understand the challenges people living with disabilities face, I decided to interview Mr. Johnson who has a hearing impairment, but who uses a hearing device to improve his hearing capabilities. He acknowledged that in his experience of daily living, he faces numerous challenges such as lack of understanding and negative attitudes from other individuals. However, the biggest problem lies in communication, because conversing with others can be quite difficult. To be more precise, he quoted that he mostly relies on reading lips in order to understand what his colleagues are saying, which is not always efficient and smooth. He also pointed out that his speech is not entirely clear, as there are times when he tends to speak inaudibly or louder than expected.
As a result, the effects of his hearing impairment make an emotional impact not only on Mr. Johnson, but also on his family and friends. Mr. Johnson stated that there are a lot of times when he feels neglected and excluded from the others, as they are all not familiar with the sign language.. He pointed out that it is hard for him to be a part of the family, as he mostly misses on what is being discussed over dinner, among during other social activities. Similarly, laughing at the joke told by his friends also tends to be challenging, and he is frequently prompted to ask what the joke entailed.
Nevertheless, Mr. Johnson said that the caregivers are very helpful, which is important as they play a significant role in enabling him to accept and manage his condition. He pointed out that he has scheduled visits to the doctor where he is able to receive guidance and counseling from the caregivers to relieve stress that appears while accomplishing the daily activities. Mr. Johnson perceives those people as caring and understanding based on the fact that they are patient and engage in meaningful conversations with him despite his hearing impairment. The caregivers mainly help to enable him to cope with the loss of hearing and inform him about how to deal with his hearing devices and how to maintain them.
In regard to the financial impact, Mr. Johnson acknowledged it as a major challenge since it is laborious for him to find employment. He clarified that his job opportunities are limited as he can not work in noisy places since his hearing device also magnifies the background noises. He also can not work on social areas, as it is hard for him to interact freely with others. Besides, some employers are intolerant — thus they tend to discriminate against him based on his physical impairment rather than on his capabilities, thereby deteriorating his financial situation. Based on the interview, it is evident that Mr. Johnson’s hearing impairment has degraded the quality of his life. This is attributed to the many challenges he encounters on a daily basis, unlike the average healthy person. Each day is a struggle to him while he tries to fit in within the society.
The interview proved to be a valuable learning experience for me, as basing on the interview, I can now relate to the challenges encountered by people with disabilities in their daily activities. As a result, I will incorporate the knowledge with my nursing skills in order to offer adequate health care to all people with disabilities. The interview experience enabled me to place myself in their position, thus helping me gain a comprehensive understanding of their predicament.