Not too long ago I had the opportunity to meet with Barbra and Liz who are avid walkers in Philadelphia. Barbra is Liz’s mom. They are very close and walk everywhere together.
Every week Liz and Barbra venture to a variety of destinations — Barbra on foot and Liz in her wheelchair. They walk to 4th and Dickinson very often since it is the location of one of their favorite destinations, Grindcore Cafe. They have taken many different routes from Liz’s apartment in Rittenhouse Square. During our talk they made it clear that they thought that taking Wharton is the best route, and taking Federal is the worst route. This is interesting because to me both streets seem like similar neighborhood streets, which means that there must be many minor things that make one really good and the other really bad for someone in a wheelchair.
While Grindcore Cafe is one of their more frequented destinations, they also walk to other destinations. Once a week they go over to West Philadelphia for their favorite Ethiopian food. They also take walks where they venture aimlessly and walk up as far as Fishtown and over as far as the Delaware River.
While walking is a part of their daily routine, Liz needs her mom to help navigate throughout the City. When wheeling around the City, safety is a major concern for Liz. There is always the impending fear of Liz being thrown out of her wheelchair on a curb cut or a gap that she does not see. When we spoke, Liz explained to me that “the City is like an obstacle course”; one that she could not maneuver on her own.
Despite the dangers of navigating Philadelphia with one person in a wheelchair they continue to walk for the exercise and for the adventure. As Barbra claimed during our discussion, “It is a nice way to get exercise, get a nice meal, get to keep up with nice places, get fresh air and see what happens in the City”.