Visiting the Doctor is dangerous to my health and my wheelchair


Every four weeks I visit my local GP to get prescriptions for the multitude of medications I take. I’ve had the same Doctor for over a decade, and he has helped me in many ways. I visited the Doctor in an alternative location, rather than where I normally visit.

By the time I got back into my van, my wheelchair was damaged, both my hands were hurting, and I felt stressed and angry.

Shouldn’t a visit to the Doctor make you feel better?

Problem 1 – accessible parking

a white car is parked in an accessible parking spot at the doctor's surgery. There is little room for wheelchairs to get in and out of vehiclesMy van has a lifter that extends outwards from the left-hand side, and I need a vacant space to get out of the van. The Australian standard for accessible parking has an area next to the accessible park, the same size as a standard car park, with a bollard to prevent vehicles parking in the space.

The car park of the shopping centre doesn’t have sufficient space for PWD to use wheelchairs or to use lifters. I found a nearby road and parked illegally on the wrong side of the road.

my black vw transporter is parked on the wrong side of the road. Next to grass and trees.

problem 2 – the front door

A slight incline to the front door, and the double doors are brown with a large handle. 2 planes of glass on each door

The front door has a ‘push’ sign on it, which is strange, as fire regulations require doors to open outwards. I followed the instructions and positioned my chair so I could push the door open.

Although it is not noticeable in the photograph, there is a slight incline immediately before the door. My right hand controlled the chair via the joystick, and I commenced pushing with my left arm. As I have good upper body strength and was using a powered wheelchair, these doors usually are ok to open.

This door was difficult, and I struggled to open it. Then the controller came in contact with the door handle, as the handle was large. The controller pushed backwards which had an effect of my hand moving the joystick forward.

The wheelchair took off and the door flew open, and I ended up a few metres inside the Doctor’s surgery. Ten patients and two staff members were startled as I mentioned loudly ‘this surgery is not suitable for wheelchairs’.

I felt stressed and angry, and my nasal passages blocked up. My left hand had little dots of blood and missing skin, and my right hand was sore. The wheelchair controller broke, and I noticed my right foot wasn’t pointing forward.

After obtaining the prescriptions, I asked the Doctor to check my ankle and leg for damage. Fortunately, it was ok. I couldn’t be bothered with the issues with my hands, as I believe it was just superficial. Time will tell.

problem 3 – the accessible toilet

a big and heavy wooden toilet door, with labels showing an image of a woman, and a wheelchairThe controller was ‘wobbly’. It moved around, which made it difficult to move the wheelchair. The warning device was no longer working. I had no choice but to use it and leave. I noticed a wheelchair sticker on the women’s toilet door. It reminded me of the problems I had with the Adelaide Festival Centre restrooms.

I attempted to push the door open with my left arm. The door didn’t move. I pushed harder, and nothing happened. I hit the door with an open palm and it opened. The noise made a few patients jump up and ask if I need help. ‘Thank you, but I will try to do it myself first’, I answered. The door was still difficult to open and I moved in.

Then a sharp left turn, and I noticed the toilet was occupied. Fortunately, I still had the door open, and I reversed back into the waiting room. If the first door had shut, there was no way I could inside the toilet - a mirror high on the wall, as is the paper dispenser. Very tight arearotate and open it. A woman exited, and the door closed, and I slapped the door again, and another patient asked if I needed help.

The second door was easier to open, and the bathroom was too small for wheelchairs. I could barely close the door behind me. And my wheelchair isn’t as large as other powered chairs.

The mirror is high on the wall and I looked into it and didn't see myself at allAfter using the toilet and washing my hands, I wanted to check my appearance and used the mirror. It was mounted too high on the wall. The paper dispenser was at the same height.

This wasn’t a suitable accessible toilet, and the surgery just placed a wheelchair sticker on the women’s toilet door.

Getting out was difficult, and the photos show the gap between the wheels, the toilet and the door.


my foot is to the left, and the white toiletthe wooden door is wedged against my wheel

what now?

After publishing this blog, I will contact the surgery, and ask for a response. The building is unsuitable in many ways for patients in wheelchairs. My body will probably recover quickly, but the controller is still an issue. Hopefully, I won’t need to report the surgery to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

the wheelchair controller is wobby and cannot be fixed adequately to the chair. It is pictured at right angles to where it should be. and the warning device is brokenI received a quick reply from the surgery and they were disappointed I didn’t contact them first. Usually, I would contact organisations first, before posting on social media. However,  the surgery was the least wheelchair accessible business I’ve ever visited. It deserved to be posted and I did it without identifying the business. It was lucky that no patient inside the surgery was knocked over by the door.

The location would have been used for many years, and it is disappointing that a business that specialises in health care, would think so little of their clients in wheelchairs. Their reply posed no questions about my wheelchair damage or my health.

I will visit in four weeks and determine if accessibility has improved. Not sure how they will resolve the issues with the women’s toilet aka ‘the accessible toilet’. May have to spend more than $5, which was the cost of the wheelchair sticker.

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