Photo by Scott Weersing/Staff Photographer

Wheelchair tour helps study ease of access
Group wants to help physically challenged
by Roberta Landman
Staff Writer

THOUSAND OAKS - Under a blazing sun Tuesday, five people in wheelchairs and one on a motorized scooter wheeled along the sidewalks and cross streets of Thousand Oaks Boulevard.

The travelers fought traffic at fast-changing signals and the obstacle of a high, rampless curb.  They also stopped to thank merchants who have made their businesses accessible to the physically challenged.

The wheelchair caravan wash was organized by Lance Winslow, 29, owner of a mobile car wash firm, and one of four on the tour who does not need to use a wheelchair.

Winslow, who is considering a run for the Thousand Oaks City Council, said one of the goals was to open a dialogue between the physically challenged and business owners - to make businesses more aware of their special needs.

He said he became interested in the issue when he washed a mobile home for a customer who uses a wheelchair and needed help to go outside and inspect Winslow's work.

Another goal of Tuesday's wheelchair trek, he said, was to create a climate in which business owners who haven't already will want to make their establishments more accessible to people in wheelchairs.

This could make them eligible for awards to be presented jointly by the Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce and the City of Thousand Oaks, Winslow said.

Winning informal plaudits from the sweaty, tired boulevard travelers for their consideration of disabled people were a cluster of businesses, including Taco Bell, The Lamp Show, Here Comes the Bride, Conejo Wine & Provision Co., and Aura Salon.

Pat Spencer, a wheelchair user from Camarillo, said she was impressed with Aura Salon's easy access and wide aisles.

"The beauty shop was a delight to go in if you're in a wheelchair.  You could even sit in your wheelchair and get your hair done," she said.

Spencer, who depended on a wheelchair for more than three years, and now is able to use a walker and cane, remembered when she had to stop going to certain shops because they were difficult to access.  At Aura Salon, owner Beth Little was happy to hear Spencer's compliments.

"We do get customers with wheelchairs and with walkers.  They're happy they can get in and out," she said.

One of the group, Buzz Holzer, 70, depends on a motorized scooter to get around.

A resident of Thousand Oaks Residential Care Home on Erbes Road, he is  veteran of the roads, driving his contrivance as far as Los Robles Regional Medical Center and The Oaks.

Holzer liked the wheelchair ramp Lamp Show owner Steve Rose has at the back of his store, but said he would also like to see a sticker on the front door that notes a ramp is in the rear.

Rose said that if a sticker is made, he will be glad to put one on the door.

Rose said a concrete rise at the shop's front door has prevented a ramp being put there, but noted that wheelchair clients, as others, customarily park in the rear parking lot.

Marshall Dixon, an official candidate for the Thousand Oaks City Council, also took to a wheelchair Tuesday.

"I think I needed a better awareness of what the problems are, and I found out this morning," he said.  "I can sure empathize more with the people who have to go through this on a daily basis."

Dixon commented on at least one high street curb the wheelchair users had to navigate with great difficulty because it had no ramp.

"Without these ramps, 100 yards is like going a mile.  It really takes effort to get up and down these curbs," Dixon said.

"It behooves the city to do what is required by law and a little more to make sure the handicapped have access and the same quality of life the rest of the citizens do," he said.

Also gaining some wheelchair sensitivity were Lance Winslow's bother, Brett Winslow, 21, a college student; Susan Morich, executive director of Hillcrest Inn; and David Beals, owner of Pruner Health Enterprise in Thousand Oaks, all non-wheelchair users.

Reprinted from the News Chronicle, August 3, 1994.

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