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Following their injuries, many brain injury survivors are left depending upon wheelchairs to meet basic mobility needs. This change in mobility creates new safety considerations that must be taken into account on a daily basis. One of these considerations surrounds strategies for safely navigating a parking lot while in a wheelchair.
Most adults are between 5 and 6.5 feet tall. They are accustomed to being easily visible to drivers distractedly circling a parking lot and through rear windshields as drivers back up vehicles out of parking spaces. When sitting in a wheelchair though, normal adults are often effectively no taller than young children. Even the most conscientious driver can struggle while exiting a parking space to see a pedestrian in a wheelchair. These survivors are also often harder to see by a driver making the turn from one parking lot lane on to another. Due to this change in baseline visibility, survivors in wheelchairs and their families must be more vigilant of vehicle activity and the abilities at every identifiable moment of drivers to see the survivors. They must spend more time looking around to observe vehicle activity, just as they would when in the presence of a small child who may slip the notice of nearby drivers.
Another issue regarding parking lot safety is that survivors in wheelchairs are generally slower than the average person would be while moving across the same parking lot. Since it takes more time to traverse any distance, survivors and their families must add extra time in their calculations as to whether there might be enough time to safely cross in front of an approaching vehicle. If the result of such calculations inspire even the suggestion of doubt, erring on the side of patience is always the best policy. Sometimes, family and friends may need to push the survivors’ wheelchairs to help move quickly enough to safely avoid traffic. Additionally, typical adults generally can step up onto the curb from the parking lot at any location they choose. Survivors in wheelchairs must use curb cut ramps which often means that they have to take a longer route to get onto the curb and consequently spend more time in the path of vehicles. Again, survivors and their families must be aware of this additional urgency when choosing a path across any parking lot.
These are just a few quick points on wheelchair safety in the parking lot. I hope everyone has a safe time in their travels, particularly in parking lots!
Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Moody Neurorehabilitation Institute: http://tlcrehab.org/
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