Daniel Vance - Disabilities

Business owner Dave Neiman of St. Peter, Minnesota, has become a great deal more aware over the last six months about accessibility issues arising in his ten Arrow Ace Hardware stores.

It all started last June: “While launching a boat then with my father-in-law, I was jumping from boat to dock and just landed wrong,” he said in a telephone interview. A doctor later confirmed Neiman had severely injured his Lisfranc joint, which an American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons website defines as “the point at which the metatarsal bones (long bones that lead up to the toes) and the tarsal bones (bones in the arch) connect.”

In Neiman’s case, “all those foot joints popped out of their sockets and all the ligaments and tendons tore,” he said. He had foot surgery in which a surgeon pinned and screwed his right foot together and wrapped the foot in a cast. Then he learned he wouldn’t be allowed to put any weight on the foot for over two months. Even after that, he still would have another nine months of recovery in which he would have to use a walking aid, such as crutches or a knee walker.

Meanwhile, he began trying to live a normal life until the foot healed, but soon discovered “all these obstacles,” he said. “It made me think a lot more about the accessibility of my stores, such as issues like people going into bathrooms, and thinking how a customer using a scooter would get into one.” Eating out one night, his wife had to escort him around to the rear entrance of a restaurant because he couldn’t enter through the front.

As a businessman, he now has a greater understanding of what people with mobility disabilities face, including finding parking stalls, getting over curbs, and entering stores with steps. Doctors said he should recover fully by this June.

He advised business owners: “Some of your customers may complain about all those handicapped parking stalls up front in the choicest spots. I was able to get a handicap tag for my car and certainly appreciated the spots. Inside the store, some businesses have narrow aisles and merchandise in the way making getting around difficult. I have started noticing this about my own stores. Now I’ve begun saying to my managers, ‘If you were in a wheelchair, how would you get through this?'”

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