Confehr: Roll a mile in their seat

Friday, January 22, 2010

There have been rumblings on topics in Lewisburg that haven't hit the viral stage out there in Ether-land, but they deserve a few remarks here.

A property owner wanted to improve a building and get a business going, but felt building codes enforcement was too strict. That's not uncommon. What's remarkable is the proposed suggestion.

Instead of building new walls around a commode - with handrails on corner walls - to create a larger restroom accessible for someone who must use a wheelchair, it was suggested that the area be enclosed on at least one side with a curtain.

Or so the story goes.

You can imagine what a codes enforcement officer would say. "No way, Jose," was the reply reported last week.

The county officer takes a firm stand on handicap regs. Years ago, he broke an ankle and had to use crutches. When he went to the doctor's office for a checkup, he had trouble getting in the building - and it was a doctor's office.

Furthermore, nobody helped him.

Now, while it might seem as though there are more handicapped parking spaces closer to front doors, those of us who walk on two feet might want to count our blessings.

Decades ago, as the son of an Army Reserve officer, I had superior health care at what used to be called the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland. It was where I interviewed a Navy pilot after he returned from Vietnam and 7-1/2 years of captivity as a prisoner of war. He came back whole. Others didn't. Better medical treatment saves more lives, but war wounds can put you on crutches or in a wheelchair and you've probably noticed America is fighting two wars now.

During a codes meeting last Friday, Greg Lowe, one of my predecessors at the Tribune, accepted a challenge to negotiate the halls of the County Courthouse Annex in a wheelchair. He's now Lewisburg's codes enforcement officer and Greg negotiated the halls and elevator fairly well. Doors and the bathroom? Not so much.

Lowe took pictures of me trying substantially the same thing. It's not easy. We didn't try to get in and out of a vehicle. Nor did we roll on a sidewalk. And we have all our limbs.

Everybody wants property owners to flourish. How many - whole, or handicapped - would use a restroom with a curtain instead of a wall?