For those who use mobility devices to help them get around, social distancing can be a challenge — especially on sidewalks.
Wendy Cox, executive director of Victoria Disability Resource Centre, uses a manual wheelchair to get around and says she’s had a number of instances where people didn’t give her enough space. Cox has been self-isolating but leaves her home once a day to take her dog out for a walk.
“Some people do step off the sidewalk when they see me coming, but a lot of people don’t,” she says. “So I’ll hold my breath until they give me some distance — it’s a little nerve-wracking.”
Another issue Cox has seen is an uptick in spit on the ground, which she has to manoeuvre around so her wheels don’t drive through it. She also notes an increase in disposable gloves, masks and tissues tossed on the ground.
“I know every single time I go outside, I’m taking a bigger risk because my wheels are touching the ground … and there’s a risk of me bringing something into my house that I could wheel in again and end up touching my face.”
Last week Cox wrote a letter asking Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps to bring up the issues during one of her daily COVID-19 updates.
“Please don’t spit on the ground, it’s more important than ever to keep hands and wheels clean,” said Helps on March 26. “Please be aware that while everyone’s trying to practise social distancing, wheelchair users can’t step off the sidewalk.”
Cox has considered moving onto the road herself but says it’s an option she’s not entirely comfortable with.
“Do I risk my life from contracting COVID-19 from someone on the sidewalk or do I risk my life on the road?”
Cox asks those who see someone in a wheelchair outside, to please give them some distance.