Whether you are a novice wheelchair user, or are just beginning to roll on your journey, the challenge of traveling in a community that is not accessible is all the same—a daunting task. Imagine navigating through city streets where the sidewalks are broken and cars block pedestrian crossings.
Half a million people with disabilities living in Mexico City face this challenge daily as they travel outside of their homes going about their daily schedules.
However, the city government of Mexico City has made great strides in making the city more accessible. Thanks to organizations like Vida Independiente and the city’s disability services office, called Indepedi.
Vida Independiente, meaning Independent Life, is a class that teaches individuals of all ages with various disabilities, how to effectively navigate the city independently. In fact, in the courtyard of the city government’s disability services office are obstacles that students practice their wheeling skills on - like stairs with a hand railing, curbs, potholes, and metal grating.
The organization sets up training courses that have these mock obstacles that one might encounter on the Mexico City streets. Students must then use some problem-solving skills mixed with physical strength and determination to figure out how to accomplish the tasks set before them.
Ruben Navarro, a paraplegic and director of the program, talks about the core mission of Vida Independiente:
"Our philosophy is to teach people how to fish, not give them a fish. Look around: Everyone here is working hard, they're all fighting to become independent and live a totally normal life."
Vida Independiente provides the framework for people to go out and live life as independently as possible, but no one ever said that would be an easy feat.
A “boot camp attitude” is an adequate description of the atmosphere at Vida Independiente. Coaches encourage students to push themselves to - and sometimes beyond - their limits.
"This (falling) happens a lot here, it's part of the learning process,” says one of the coaches. “”But better here than in the street, no?”
So even when faced with obstacles, these students are proving that practice and determination can open up new paths to travel.
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