THOUSAND OAKS : Merchants Take Up Wheelchairs in Access Lesson
When Thousand Oaks businessman Lance Winslow tried to negotiate a curb in his wheelchair Tuesday morning, he landed face down in the street.
“It’s much harder than it looks,” said Winslow, who confined himself briefly to a wheelchair to make a point. “I think people really have no idea what this is like.”
Winslow and about a dozen other Thousand Oaks residents and business owners, most of whom are able-bodied, explored the world on wheels in an effort to smooth relations between businesses and those dependent on wheelchairs.
Winslow, who is also running for City Council, organized the morning event in response to complaints from members of the business community who object to requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The day began with many business representatives expressing frustration over regulations that force them to make expensive improvements to provide access for the disabled, Winslow said.
What many business operators did not realize, said retirement home administrator Susan Morich, is that they can take a lot of small, inexpensive steps to improve access.
“What amazed me was how many little things there were that made the difference between us going in and us staying away,” Morich said. “I think by doing (this experiment), we learned a lot.”
Morich said simple improvements such as installing doors that open both in and out, and installing cuts in curbs make a world of difference.
The results can be beneficial to both the disabled and the businesses, Winslow said.
“By writing off the handicapped, these businesses are writing off a whole population of potential customers,” he said. “They’re hurting themselves.”
For 70-year-old Buzz Holzer, a Thousand Oaks resident who makes his way around town on an electric scooter, the day was a great success.
“I think there is a lot the city and the businesses need to do in terms of creating accessibility,” Holzer said. “The people we we’re out with today really seemed to gain an understanding of the problem. They said, ‘Boy, now I can see why you’re upset.’ ”