George V. Reilly

Seattle Accessibility

I’ve been using a knee walker for the last couple of weeks. For the first time, I took public trans­porta­tion by myself to attend Papers We Love tonight. I rolled myself from 1st Ave S & Washington up to the Pioneer Square station, took the Light Rail one stop north to the University Street station at 3rd & Seneca, then rolled down the hill to 2nd & Spring. It’s a trip I wouldn’t have thought about twice if I were walking nor­mal­ly—and I probably would have walked the entire way rather than take the Light Rail only one short stop.

It’s a different matter on a knee scooter. I said “roll” but “bump” is a better verb. I pushed my way over the bumpy streets and sidewalks up to 3rd & Yesler, waited in a piss-reeking alcove for the elevator down to the mezzanine, then rolled over to the second elevator down to the platform of the Pioneer Square station. Two elevators up at University Street station, then rolling down one steep block, clenching the brakes all the way, to Second Ave, avoiding uneven surfaces and metal grates.

It’s tiring and annoying. I have a renewed ap­pre­ci­a­tion for how difficult it is for wheelchair users and others with low mobility to get around. Before the Americans with Dis­abil­i­ties Act of 1990, it must have been a lot worse. I suspect that Seattle is probably one of the more accessible cities.

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