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  • Writer's pictureTrish Dotts

Icy Ramp Ride

I have this great friend. Chandra. She is happy to be one of those inspirational people who have a great attitude even though she navigates life from a wheelchair.

Just after Thanksgiving, a wintry day in Sheridan Wyoming, our families prepared for the Christmas season kick-off by visiting a popular coffee shop. The roads were icy, the wind was blowing and some events had been cancelled. Not to be discouraged from pre-Christmas activities by winter weather, we braved the chill in our warm gear and high traction footwear. With our fun friend Chandra we approached the cafe building from the back, since that’s where the wheelchair parking and ramp were located. Thankfully, the wind had cleared the snow to provide a wide shiny parking space but the adventure began at the ramp.

The roads were icy, the parking lot was icy, but at least those places are level. Horizontal. Free from angled gravitational pull. As I write this, I realize there are some physics at play that I have never learned. They certainly were evident as we tried to move Chandra up the icy ramp. See, the ice reduces friction. One needs some friction to push a wheelchair up a ramp.

If the wheelchair is being moved forward by the wheels, the tires need to grip the surface to propel the chair forward. If a person pushes the wheelchair from behind, the pusher’s feet need to grip the ground. But, there was smooth, wind and snow-polished, glistening glistening ice on this ramp. So pushing Chandra’s wheelchair up the ramp appeared comical. I wish we had that on video. Funny to watch, probably frightening to be in the chair, on a carnival-like ride without paying for a ticket.

Once wheeling her around the building into the warm dry inside, we ordered our drinks and found accessible seating where we planted and joked and warmed up. At some point, we asked the staff if we could get some de-icer to take care of the ramp. The area around the front door and parking lot were adequately littered with the ice-melting crystals. The baristas reported that a customer had taken the bag and used the whole thing on the front sidewalk. That customer evidently had walking feet and didn’t think to de-ice the ramp. No problem, people with disabilities are used to having their needs forgotten. It’s not a martyr feeling, it is just part of having a disability.

One can only drink so much coffee before the need to leave to explore other day-after-Thanksgiving adventures so we bundled up to brave the elements. Now the whole crew was there to help Chandra descend into the parking lot. This time, I captured it on video. Though my concern for her and my lack of videography skills interfere with the entire scene. Notice how the chair roates sideways and her spotter's feet slide like skis on the ice at the bottom.

You can hear the uncomfortable laughter but the relief that it all worked out! Hey, next winter, can you take a minute to make sure your favorite hangouts have de-iced for everyone?

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