Disability access

Last week I was amazed and bewildered to find that although a hospital washroom had a stall equipped for physically handicapped people, a wheelchair would not fit through the main entrance.  And of course the equipped stall was at the back of the bathroom.

Last week I was discouraged and dismayed to find that even if you are pushing an occupied wheelchair while simultaneously accompanying an elderly person, not many people will open the door for you.

Last week I again thought that were I physically disabled, I would spend a great deal of time enraged by other people’s stupidity.  Because like with anti-racism, people have this concept that disability access is a “good” thing.  But they do not know what it truly means.  Last week I was again the escort and driver for an elderly person who was attending a show.  Although the informational materials about the show mentioned that if you required assistance for disabled persons, you should be sure and call, I did not call.  Why?  Because I called in years past and found the person in charge to be completely and utterly unhelpful.

The conversation went something like this:

Me:  Hi, I’m going to be escorting an elderly person with some mobility problems to the show on Saturday.  What is the best way to do this?  Is it possible for me to seat the person before the main doors are open?

Unhelpful person:  I don’t know what you mean.  It’s open seating.

Me:  I understand it’s open seating.  I’m asking about the disability access.  What is the best way to enter the building?  And would I be able to help this person be seated before the lobby doors open?

UP:  You would just come in with everybody else.  There are no reserved seats for anybody.  You can accompany that person if you need to.

Me:  It’s the stairs I’m concerned about.  Also, I’m worried about the crowd.

UP:  (More in a similar vein until I finally hung up in disgust.)

This venue is extremely unfriendly to people with mobility problems.  It has a long, wide staircase with a handrail just on one side at the entrance to the building.  Additionally, the theater itself is pitched with steps. Since it is open seating (I’d been there before for other events), it’s like the running of the bulls when the doors open.  No shit.  I’d never take anybody unsteady on their feet through that.

Anyway, I had done some volunteer work so I knew there was a door on the side of the stage.  This year I noticed it was marked “HANDICAP ACCESS.”  Last year we snuck in through that door.  This year the door was locked.

(And as a side rant, thrown in for free:  What is up with the accessible entrance always being back by the freight elevator, or the garbage cans, or the garage door, or some other equally ugly back-door entrance?  How would you even know that the entrance was there?  I went to a graduation ceremony with a friend who needed an elevator once, and nobody at the Big Name University even knew where the freaking elevator was!  There were many directional signs to the ceremony.  And the final sign pointed up a big flight of stairs.)

I ran into somebody else who was mobility impaired, and she had her child run around to see if she could open the door from the other side.  But the child reported that nobody was being allowed in from the front door.

So I went backstage, down the steps and around the side to open the door.  But somebody saw me.  And they didn’t like it.

All the usual arguments:  It’s disruptive to the people who are still in rehearsal.  It’s not fair to the other people.  If I let you come in and sit down, I’m going to hear complaints about it.

Me:  What the fuck?  You mean that if people come in and see that disabled people were allowed to SIT DOWN early that you would have a hard time fending off complaints?!

Okay, so I didn’t really say that.  But I did say something like that.  Only much politer, because I am a polite sort.   And the person said that they would bring some chairs, but we would have to sit outside the door.  And that we had to get out of the seats.

By the time the chairs came it was two minutes before the doors opened.  So in other words, people with physical disabilities were made to stand up in a backstage corridor.  Because otherwise, you know, it wouldn’t be FAIR to other people.

I’d be willing to bet you that if I hadn’t gone through the backstage nobody would have ever opened that fucking door.

6 thoughts on “Disability access

  1. hmm, the best way to give them an idea of their stupidity might be to arrive at the last minute, and delay the show opening, that wouldn’t be fair either, but they might get the picture, although i don’t have high hopes. as it is now, you are doing all their work, what they already should be doing, make ’em sweat a little themselves, instead of you doing all their work. they are responsible for access under Americans with Disabilities Act, not you. I think there is a huge fine for some organizations if they don’t comply with access.
    i think the reason that access is in the back or near freight and garbage is to comply with access requirements under ADA, without spending much money, so they use what they already had.

  2. My mom has MS, and has plenty of stories about lack of access and lack of helpfulness. This is a big problem, but like you said, people don’t have a true idea of what good access really means.

  3. The part that really annoyed me was all the blather about “fair.” It is extremely hard to explain to people that “fair” or “just” does not mean “you have one, so I get one too.”

    My opinion is that reasonable people wouldn’t say one word about people with physical disabilities being allowed to sit down before them. But the response I got tells you a lot about the person who was speaking.

    Kathy, unfortunately I think the reality is that if you do not do the work, you will be denied access and nobody will give a shit.

  4. Resistance, i tend to agree with you on nobody giving two craps except that i do remember when that law came into effect and there used to be fines associated with failure to comply. maybe i will try to look it up for you. :))
    p.s. i am sorry you are having such a shitty time with that.

  5. Just to add in, if the person you are assisting speaks with an accent or is a person of colour/visible ethnicity, then the officials will speak extremely loudly and enunciate every single syllable because of course, raising the volume will cross the language barrier (if one exists) or they assume the person with the disability is also mentally impaired.

    I don’t have a lot of experience outside of Canada, but I have found Newark Liberty Airport staff to be extremely helpful for seniors and persons needing ability assistance. However everyone can always do more on every front.

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