Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sometimes accessibilty is more than meets the eye

Hey everyone, I have a video for you. I am going around, handing out brochures for my dog walking business. This means going to different vets offices and asking them if its okay to set up some flyers. These places are not the usual places I go, so there is always a question of if I can get in. Watch this (the person was not blurred in this case because I found her particularly polite):

Granted, I didn't call first and ask about accessibility. But sometimes even if I do call in and they say yes, I get there to find that's not the case. There is sometimes like one step or something. Another example is when my family and I went on vacation one year. We’re old hats at traveling and we always call first to make sure I can get in everywhere. However, when we got to the hotel (which was supposed to be accessible) there were 3 steps leading up to our room.

Most people think accessibility means ramps and being able to get into the main building without scaling flights of stairs. People don’t consider “is the bathroom accessible” or “are the tables placed too close together so that a wheelchair wouldn’t be able to get by”. I know able-bodied people don’t get practice thinking about these questions. But it’s really frustrating getting somewhere and finding out there’s no way in or no way to maneuver around. ESPECIALLY when I am with a big group and now we all have to go somewhere else. And I am just discussing mobility barriers. Other disabilities like vision and hearing impairments or sensitivity to fragrance or things like that have a whole other set of problems.

One cool story about some place adapting to my needs is my old hairdresser. She shared her shop with her husband who was a tattoo artist. The problem was her part of the shop was up a huuuge flight of stairs. Rather than saying, “Sorry but no can do,” she brought all of her supplies down and gave me a hair cut in his tattoo parlor. Adaptations don’t have to be major sometimes. Sometimes you can work with the person.


  1. Hi Eva,

    True, some people don't get the full meaning of accessibility and it can be annoying and inconvenient. I thought of you today. I was with my mom at Target in the check out line. I'm in a power chair, 29 years old, was paralyzed at C 5-7 from a neurological disease at age 10. Mom was paying and then the cashier asked me how I was, I smiled and told her I was well and asked how she was. She replied that she was doing great, and then said, "she has a beautiful smile," as if I wasn't actually there and able to understand her. Not the end of the world, and a nice compliment, but if you want to say something nice about me and I am actually present, say it to me just like you would anyone else.

  2. Amen to Laura's point.

    Also, Eva, you pointed out accessibility for vision, hearing, etc. Having been hearing impaired my whole life, we're basically just supposed to deal with it if we can't hear. Seriously. I can't tell you how many times I've got to a movie and gotten the basic plot but when I watched it on DVD, finally understood what they were saying. Then I *really* enjoyed it. It was actually funny then. Go figure.

    Also, since my spinal cord injury in 2005, I've been visually impaired with double vision and nystagmus. A lot of times when I got to fast food restaurants I have trouble seeing the menu above the cashier because my eyes can't focus on the bright lights so far away. How simple would it be to *always* have a paper menu sitting on the counter for people like me?

    The other thing about accessibility and universal design is that a lot of people want to help - or would, if they knew how easy it is. That's been my experience, at least.


  3. Give it up for the entrepreneur and determination...if more people were like you, more people would have their own businesses! Way to go!

  4. See most all of the time i can walk from one place to another (not nessisarily far), but far enough that most things that would prevent you from getting from point A to point B are no true issue for me.

    Then there are the days when the pain is to great, and i have a medium distance to walk, or there is just to much walking that i know it will end with me hunched over in tears unable to go farther so i end up using a wheelchair, and quickly spot all the places i can not go or get around. Ikea is where i most often end up in a chair since it is just to much walking but i love the store. The resteraunt however, is almost imposible to get through the line, and then the checkout has been imposible most times i go. They tend to stack things beside the checkout not leaving enough width for a chair.

    I really thing that anyone who designs the layout for places, or even the persons who might be the ones putting thigns in the way without a second thought should be strapped in a chair for a a while just so they clue in.

    Luckely each time this has been an issue i was with my mom so she just delt with the people i couldnt get close to. But it is often really little things that end up prevening places from being accessible to everyone.

    I recently moved and although i love our new house i am often slapped in the face that there are stairs to everything. I have been outside when pain striked and making it up the front steps took me a good 10minutes so often i have to think prior to going down stairs if theres a chance of flair that might keep me trapped where-ever i am.

    Thats awsome about the hairdresser!

  5. My college goes about this in a rather backwards fashion. For instance, they went and remodeled the bathrooms in the dorm I'm in to make them accessible, but completely neglected to take note of the fact that all of the entrances have staircases. So, basically, the dorm's inaccessible while the facilities inside are accessible. Hopefully, they'll fix this error when there is a budget and time for it.

    I am proud of how much the college strives to be accessible though. They've been hard at work at providing dorms that are entirely accessible for students and are very willing to move classes to accessible buildings, and give students rides (for instance, our gym is located in "the valley of death", which means you either need to come by car or take vast staircases).

  6. I've had almost the opposite problem - people assume that becaues it's wheelchair accessible, it's completely accessible.

    Well, I'm as yet not in a 'chair, though I will be eventually. I have trouble with all of my joints, due to a genetic condition.

    I'm sure you're quite familiar with the fact that the wheelchair accessible route is often far longer than the non-accessible route. I'm often faced with a catch-22. I have to choose between using the elevator/ramp and going the long way or struggling with the stairs and going the short way. It makes me want to scream sometimes because it feels like no one ever considers my position - neither being able to do the stairs nor to do the longer distance consistantly.