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How you may be blocking access for those with disabilities without even knowing it

Posted at 9:58 PM, Aug 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-02 07:41:45-04

Sometimes, all it takes is a little time in someone else's shoes to learn how things we may not think about have large impacts on others.  

ABC15 reporter Melissa Blasius rode along with a man in a wheelchair-accessible van Wednesday to see how careless habits block access for people with disabilities.

"Anytime you put anything in that 'hashtag' area, it reduces the distance that you have inside there to be able to deploy the ramp and get out of the vehicle," said Tiger Desmarais.

Desmarais is a technical support engineer with Vantage Mobility International, a company that manufactures wheelchair van conversions and mobility products. He started using a wheelchair after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2002.

Outside one grocery store in south Phoenix, Desmarais found about a dozen shopping carts parked in the yellow striped area designated for a van's wheelchair ramp. Desmarais says he can't exit his van without an eight-foot clearance on the passenger side. Because of the carts, he could not park in that area.

At another grocery store a block away, Desmarais spotted carts abandoned in the pathway to the store from the disabled parking spots. 

"The carriages bunched up at the front are killer, you know, because that blocks your way when you are going through," he said.

Demarais tells ABC15 he also sees cars parked over the yellow hash-marked area, which also blocks his ability to get out of the van.

For him and all those with disabilities, small courtesies can make a big impact on their mobility.

"That's really what everyone shoots for - is that normalcy thing," Desmarais said.