Walter: You’re welcome… Anything I can do to get my 15 minutes. I want to be the Snookie of wheelchair folk.
Walter: Actually, it’s an amazing workout and cheaper than joining a gym. Have you seen my guns?
Me: I guess that answers my question of why manual and not electric.
Walter: Seriously, though, I flipped a car when I was 14 while driving back from feeding my neighbors’ horses and broke my back. Sometimes I get bored with that answer, so I make up a more interesting story that better suites the moment. In this case, it was a freak blogging accident.
Me: That really wasn't the answer that I was expecting. I mean, I expected the blogging accident but not the car flipping.
Walter: Cripples are full of surprises…
Me: My apartment building has several levels of stairs but no elevator. Are you going to sue my landlord?
Walter: Probably not. I’d win the lawsuit, own the building, and I’d hate to raise your rent. You pay way too little. I really don’t want to do that to you.
Me: You are as generous as you are handsome. So no elevator for me? That's too bad. Carting up groceries can be a real pain.
Walter: Consider yourself lucky. Do you know how many elevator related injuries occur the United States, alone? It’s safer for you this way. Trust me, that’s how I ended up in this wheelchair.
Me: Actually, speaking of elevators and and accidents...
Me: As an architect, and I don't know if you're any good because I haven't seen your stuff, but barring that, are you more aware of designing with wheelchair accessible options?
Walter: First, let me clarify that I’m an architectural consultant, not an architect. I don’t have my architectural license which means I am not liable for any building I design, falling down and putting you in wheelchair.
Walter: Most of the projects I design are houses and unless that house is being built specifically for someone in a wheelchair, I don’t necessarily force my accessibility agenda on them. I probably don’t like the people that are living there anyway, so why would I visit? BUT, universal design (that’s the correct term for designing spaces with the feeble, infirm, and elderly in mind) is usually a good design element to incorporate into a new home. It increases resale value and broadens the potential buyer base. Also, if this is the last place you plan on living, having a house that can accommodate decrepitude and hospice with minimal remodels makes life a little bit easier on everyone waiting for you to die.
Me: Not only handsome and generous, but also smart! Where in Philadelphia would you say are some wheelchair friendly spots? And where are the worst (not counting my apartment building)?
Walter: Actually, the museums here are quite accessible. Don’t let those Rocky stairs fool you, there’s a rear entry with an elevator. (Obese people are lazy, too.) If you’re the outdoorsy type, the River walk is quite lovely, but watch out for bikers, especially the ones dressed in spandex. Penn’s Landing is also a great place to visit. It’s at a slight incline there, so it’s a lovely, graceful coast. Coming back’s an uphill climb, so beware. My personal favorite is to sit in Rittenhouse Square on sunny Spring or Fall day with a box of wine, watching people and judging them. Seriously, how could someone with any self-worth play hacki-sack or four-square?
|Walter, not in Rittenhouse Square|
Walter: Anywhere in Old City is a nightmare to get around. Between the cobblestone streets and the bridge and tunnel crowd, it’s hardly worth the effort. Plus, you have to remember Old City is old. Cripples died back then, so there was no need to accommodate them.
Me: True, and Old City on Friday and Saturday nights is a nightmare in general.
Me: Lastly, do people give you free things because you're in a wheelchair? Will you give me free things because you're in a wheelchair?
Walter: They don’t give me free things because I’m in a wheelchair. They give me free things because I’m attractive.
Walter: I would give you free stuff, but I’m a radical feminist and don’t want to oppress you with my overbearing, misogynistic charity.
Me: That's very thoughtful of you, Walter. So on that note, thanks for the interview!
Walter: It was my pleasure. Let’s do this again, soon. I’m sure your viewers would love to hear the plight of a Southern farm boy living in the genteel-lessness of Philadelphian urbanity.
Me: Please don't try and steal my audience.
- Talk loudly to people in wheelchairs. Obviously they also can't hear.
- Stare at people in wheelchairs. Everyone loves to be stared at.
- Point. It is even better.
On a serious note: Do:
- Hold the door open. (You should be doing that for everyone anyway)
- Wear your seat belt. We don't care if it wrinkles your suit or dress.
- Check on your wheelchair friends during a storm.
- Ask if it works.
- Bring up your own sob story. No, really, it doesn't compare.
- Sit on a person in a wheelchair's lap without first asking.
|I hope she asked...|
- Start pushing someone's wheelchair without permission.
- Assume that if they're in a wheelchair that they must love Artie on Glee.