Getting around Sydney in a wheelchair

I have family visiting from Lismore, and today, I was granted a “day pass” from the hospital to spend a few hours with them, heading into the city. Besides enjoying their company, I was eager for a much-needed haircut and a break from “hospital food.”

To prepare for the outing, I spent a significant amount of time last night scouring Google Maps, particularly the “Street View” feature. Being able to see both exterior and interior photos of various places greatly helped the decision-making process, now that I am currently using a wheelchair.

Locating a wheelchair-accessible hairdresser or barber near St. Vincent’s Hospital was quite challenging: either they had a step or two to get over (and my wheelchair skills aren’t quite paralympic), or they were too expensive. After thorough research, I settled on Oxford Barber, on Crown Street (near the corner of Oxford Street).

“You’re the only place I could find with easy wheelchair access”, I told the barber. He mentioned that he had three regular clients in wheelchairs, so it didn’t phase him. “Do you want to stay in the wheelchair or get into the barber’s chair”? he asked. When I said we should try for the barber’s chair, he knew the drill. Smooth as. I’ll definitely return.

Oxford Barber, Crown Street, Darlinghurst

Not far from there, we had lunch at “The Riley” (formerly known as “The Brighton”). Clear wheelchair symbols are displayed outside. Access involved passing through the poker machine room and entering the bar through an automatic sliding door. Inside, the tables were initially set high, but the bar staff promptly provided a lower table for us. I’ve dined there a few times previously and have always relished the food. Today, I opted for a steak. And yep, I’ll be back based on today’s experience.

Our interactions with a bus driver were less than positive. As I signaled for the driver to deploy the wheelchair ramp, I noticed him mouth the words “oh, fuck.” Then when I told him our desired destination, only a few stops up the road he responded with, “You do know that other buses travel in that direction, right?” As my focus was primarily on safely boarding the bus, I let it go. However, Michelle and Karran were understandably irritated. Although he did assist with the wheelchair, his attitude left something to be desired. While I refrained from reporting the incident, perhaps I should have?

Navigating the city proved to be relatively smooth, allowing us to easily access shops like ALDI, OfficeWorks, H&M, and Sapporo. On Facebook, I joked that Michelle and Karran had “taken me hostage” as they explored makeup and cosmetics at Sephora. But I came into my own at H&M. Even though I possess an abundance of clothing at home, I indulged myself with a new polo shirt, shorts, and underwear.

I recognize that my perspective may seem naive, particularly to those who have lived with mobility challenges for a more extended period. I’m still relatively new to this experience. I’m gradually comprehending the extent of research and planning that people in wheelchairs often need to undertake.

Throughout our city excursion today, my attention was drawn to fellow wheelchair users, leading me to ponder how they manage their daily lives.

It has been seven weeks since I was admitted to the hospital. Sharing my first public outing with cherished family members, who have provided unwavering support both physically and emotionally over the past couple of months, was an absolute delight.

6 Replies to “Getting around Sydney in a wheelchair”

  1. Can empathise in a VERY minor way James – I used a wheelchair after a foot operation on a shopping trip to a major shopping centre…it was, frankly, scary. The number people that were walking and texting or simply barrelling round corners at a rate of knots not caring who (and in what) were coming the other way…😱😎
    Very glad you enjoyed your day out and look forward to hearing more of them!! ❤Xo

    1. Walking and texting, and not looking around is something I also noticed yesterday. As my leg still needs a protective covering, I was very worried about those people who might have crashed into me without noticing or caring.

      1. Yes…ditto with my foot to a much lesser degree…it’s bad enough if you don’t have an active wound…you almost need to have a stick or crutch that you can use like a lance! I’m not joking either…
        This all raises the questions about visibility of people with disability doesn’t it?

      2. Absolutely…I went up the road today and had to dodge around at least three walking texters…it’s bad enough navigating broken pavers, tree roots, signs, furniture without the walking texting zombies…

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