Every wheelchair user is unique.
We have particular mobility constraints and particular emotional responses to those constraints.
We have individual levels of pain and individual needs for assistance.
Some of us are fierce in our independence and some of us always welcome a helping hand. Many of us move between those two poles day-by-day and sometimes even hour-by-hour.
Because we are all different, no site can be created to meet the needs of all people who use wheelchairs.
This website is aimed primarily at people like me who are relatively new to wheelchair use, people who are learning about the wheelchair world and who are getting to know themselves as people with less than full mobility. If you have been in a wheelchair all your life or for many years, you have probably figured out everything I am still learning.
I spent the first 60 years of my life on my feet and loving it. Now at 66, severe osteoarthritis in my hips, knees, and shoulder has made me a part-time manual wheelchair user. My obesity complicates the arthritis, adding its own issues. I use a walker and a cane for short distances and a wheelchair for longer trips. I always am seated in my wheelchair in restaurants, but when I use a bathroom, I leave my chair outside the door, leaning on my cane and counting on hand-holds to get in and out of the stall. My husband is my pusher, as I haven’t yet invested in an electric wheelchair, but I plan to do that as soon as I can.
My main purpose in creating this site is to provide others with information that I could not find online—information about dining, shopping, site-seeing, and traveling around Seattle and Washington State when you are in a wheelchair. I’ll be looking at all aspects of that—ease of movement, bathrooms, the kindness of strangers, and other things.
Please feel free to share your own experiences here, as well, and to let me know what you find helpful.
A second purpose for this site is to let people who build parks, open stores, and run restaurants know what it is like to visit their places of business and entertainment in a wheelchair or with mobility challenges. According to the ADA National Network of regional centers: “People with disabilities are the largest and fastest-growing minority in the U.S. They control $1 trillion in total annual income. They have friends, family members, and business colleagues who accompany them to events and outings. And they use businesses and facilities that are accessible to them” (http://adata.org/factsheet/opening-doors-everyone).
Because we have money to spend and offer the benefits that diversity always confers on a space, my theory is that places of business, entertainment, and natural beauty want and need us to frequent them, but sometimes the people who own and run those places don’t know what our experience is or what we need (see the Spoken Wheel’s “Rules” page). This site is also for them.
How the Wheel-rating System Works
Please note: I’m not likely to be reviewing many places that would get fewer than four wheels; I always call ahead and check out websites before I go places, and I’m not going to go someplace that I know ahead of time will be difficult for me. Any three-, two-, and one-wheel places you find on this site will have been a surprise to me!
5 wheels: Overall, awesome access. Handicapped parking. Clear pathways in. Wide and/or automatic doorways. Loving service. Simple ramps where you need them. Easy to access seating and tables. Uncluttered, direct, open path to bathrooms. Bathrooms have handicapped stall with grab bars and easy-to-reach toilet paper. The structure feels welcoming to all. The staff, if present, feel welcoming to all. The pusher also gives it five thumbs up.
4 wheels: Overall, good access. Accessible parking. Most pathways in are clear. Doorways are easy to navigate. Service is generous and sweet. Ramps where you need them and not too steep. Easy to access seating and tables. Navigable path to bathrooms with a little help. Bathrooms have handicapped stall with grab bars and reachable toilet paper. The structure feels welcoming to all. The staff, if present, feel welcoming to all. The pusher also gives it four thumbs up.
3 wheels: Overall, okay access. Parking within shouting range. Pathways are navigable with a little help if not clear. Doorways are accessible but a little challenging because of weight, width, or threshold height. Service is capable and polite. Ramps are present when needed but a bit steep. Tables can be accessed by wheelchair but spaces are tight and so is seating. Bathrooms have handicapped stall with grab bars and reachable or plan-ahead toilet paper. The structure feels welcoming to all. The staff, if present, feel welcoming to all. The pusher gives it three thumbs up.
2 wheels: Overall, poor access. Handicapped parking and close-by parking are not available. Pathways may be bumpy, broken, or steep. Doorways may be barely accessible because of weight, width, or threshold height. Service may feel unwelcoming. Ramps, if present, are very steep. Tables may be too close together for comfortable wheelchair access and so is seating. The bathroom presents problems, such as no handicapped stall or grab bars, difficult access because of tight aisles and seating in the dining room, narrow corridors with difficult turn-arounds, or hard to reach toilet paper and sinks. The structure communicates that wheelchair guests are unwelcome. The pusher gives it three thumbs down.
1 wheel: Don’t go here.