One year ago I was struck by a car whilst riding my bike to work at Orange hospital’s emergency department.
Among other injuries I became quadriplegic, spent most of 2018 in hospital, and have recently returned to work as a doctor. I have had to learn how to be a wheelchair user in Orange. I thought some of those lessons may be of interest to people who I hope never have to learn them themselves.
There are surprisingly good things that I never realised before. One observation has been just how helpful people are to me. Watching the news, one might come to the conclusion that people are generally bad. But here in Orange this is not the case.
One weakness Orange has are footpaths. Some must be heritage listed because they look like they haven’t been maintained since Orange’s 1830 founding.
I have had complete strangers feed me, help dig out my stuck wheelchair, help load my car, open doors, open lifts, get things off shelves, help me pay for things, withdraw money and many other little tasks.
I found that if I need to help with something and I roll up next to somebody, 90 per cent of the time they are very keen to assist.
I met Premier Gladys Berejiklian last week at Kate Hazelton’s stadium announcement, and she asked me if I had any access issues in Orange that needed fixing.
We talked about a few, but when I said I got stuck in stones in my mate’s garden Ms Berejiklian said I had to deal with that one myself. In truth, the level of government support for me and my family has been very generous.
In the past I never used to notice the disabled parking spots. Now, I know where they are, there are many of them and I find them very helpful. A surprising number of shops have a step that prevents me from entering, but all of the big centres are quite easy for me to get around.
One weakness Orange has are footpaths. Some must be heritage listed because they look like they haven’t been maintained since Orange’s 1830 founding. The yellow lines at least give me warning when I’m about to be thrown around in my wheelchair.
There are some footpaths that are connected to the road via a ramp about a foot above the gutter, like the ones near Cook Park. They are mildly terrifying as I worry I might drive off the edge by mistake.
Speed humps are a real trouble now. When I work at hospital I cannot avoid them and I have such limited upper body strength that I do get thrown around when I am driven over one.
Perhaps more than anyone I see the benefits of road safety, so I wouldn’t want them removed, it is just that I now know that for the wrong person speed humps can be a problem.
Having no temperature regulation air-conditioning is a threat as well – we’ll see how we go in the winter. There is no doubt though, I’m very happy to be home and very happy to be in Orange.
Doctor Steve Peterson
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