Managers can sometimes be persuaded – by putting them in danger

Our old rehabilitation unit was a converted ward with an extension (built with charitable money from the Unit’s own fund) that opened onto the lawn. It had a gently sloping path up to the service road which was negotiable by a wheelchair.

The hospital decided to extend the pathology laboratory (some 15 years later, ironically, pathology is being withdrawn) and to do this the service road had to be moved some 3 metres nearer to the rehab unit – at the same ground level. It was immediately apparent to us that the gradient of our access path was now unmanageably steep. I tested it myself; as an able-bodied person I struggled to get up the slope in a wheelchair and when I reached the top the extra effort needed to negotiate the angle caused the chair to tip backwards. Going down was fine, until you lost your grip on the wheels and the chair then careered down the slope. Just enough speed was picked up to ensure that the automatic doors to the unit would open just as you got there, neatly sliding in between the footrests and smacking you in the face as you came to a sudden halt and tipped forwards.

We asked for a new path, to run at an angle towards part of the road which was at a lower level. We were refused. I then persuaded one of the Works Department staff to come and actually look, and before he could comment we sat him in a wheelchair and asked him to go up the slope. Being a big chap he managed this with ease, and as he turned to grin at me as if to ask what the fuss was all about the wheelchair tipped over backwards. I then asked him to go back down. He refused, and we got our path.

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