Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Service Interrupted

We checked into the hotel and wanted to use the business center to run out some stuff I needed to read and work on. The front desk clerk pointed to where the business center was and I pushed off towards it. It was a hard push some of the way because the carpet was thick. However I've been lifting weights and working out so I'm able to manage such obstacles.

When I turned the corner I saw that the brand spanking new business center was impossible for someone, anyone, in a wheelchair to enter. There was a narrow hallway which ended at a sharp right turn into three computers set up high. There were tall stools set up as places for business types to sit and type. The keyboard would have been eye level for me.

I returned to the desk and asked about other options.

There were none.

I was pissed.

They knew it.

But I was also tired and hungry. We'd been up early and on a plane for hours upon hours. I decided to let it go.

After a nights rest and a good breakfast, I decided to talk to the manager about the business center. Something had to be said, I was going to say it. I went to the front desk and requested to speak to someone in authority. A blond woman came out to see me. I asked her to come with me.

We got to the business center and before I could say anything she said, 'Oh ... my.'

I said, 'You know what disabled people call this ...?'

She said, surprisingly, 'Inaccessible.'

I said, 'No, we call this purposeful exclusion.'

'What?' she asked.

'Purposeful exclusion,' I said, 'there is no way anyone could design this, approve this and build this, without knowing that people with disabilities will never be able to use it. That makes it purposeful. The fact that only certain people can now use it make it exclusion.'

'I'm sorry,' she said but I interrupted.

'This is bigotry in concrete, this is prejudice made of steel and glass, this is how builders and designers and hotel managers spit in the face of those with disabilities. They knew, they didn't care, they did it anyways.'

'I'm sorry,' she said but I interrupted.

'You know I pay the same rate here as anyone else. I don't want something for just me. You folks don't call me and say, 'oh, by the by, we've designed parts of the building to exclude you so let us discount your room rate'. No you expect me to pay and put up with it.'

'I'm sorry,' she said but interrupted.

'I know I don't look like much, but I have an important job ...'

She might have still been sorry, I don't know, but she interrupted, 'No one should ever say that about you.'

I wasn't sorry and I interrupted, 'But the hotel did just that. They just assumed us folks with disabilities didn't have business, didn't have need for contacting others and carrying out responsibilities. You may not know this but building's can talk, in this case, the building said ... 'disabled people don't work, disabled people don't contribute, disabled people don't need connection'.'

'I'm sorry,' she said, and waited for interruption, into my silence she continued, 'what can I do to make this up to you.'

'You are waiting for me to ask for a reduced room rate, for extra points on my loyalty programme, I don't want anything like that. I want you to solemnly promise me that you will take this seriously and that something will be done about it. If you can't modify this, then make something somewhere such that a person with a disability can access the Internet in the same way as everyone else.'

She actually put her hand over her heart, and by this time I kind of thought she really did have one, and said, 'I promise you. I really promise you I will do all I can because you are right.'

We checked out and headed on our way.

'Purposeful exclusion' that's the concept that has entered my mind for the first time. I like it and I warn you, I'm going to use it over and over again.


Kristin said...

Way to go Dave! I'm so sorry you had to face that but I truly and honestly think you made a difference that day!

Kimberly said...

I'm actually surprised that this is the first time that it has occurred to you. In San Antonio, I find that almost everything has accomodations for the physically disabled (I'm not disabled, but I use the double stroller which I'm told is the same width as the larger wheelchairs, but I also find that sometimes, the actually use of these attempts to welcome those with disabilities would be impossible for someone actually in a wheelchair (ramps too steep, with a curve that although technically just wide enough wouldn't be negotiable if you were in a wheelchair, or a big post behind a door so that it doesn't open wide enough to actually allow entry). I find myself getting upset with them even though it doesn't hinder me at all.

In the quality and regulatory field of drugs and devices we talk a lot about effective corrective actions and that is what you are asking for. When there is a flaw in any product, then it is a problem with the design. If there is a flaw in anything else or with the design, it is a problem with management. So it is always a problem with management regardless of what goes wrong. I think it really is quite applicable to the situations you describe, too.

Clay said...

You're a bulldog, Dave! Way to go.

Glee said...

You go man. I like the term "purposeful exclusion" cos it is!

Andrea S. said...

I have thought of the general concept of "purposeful exclusion", even if not that precise phrase, many many times. If management *knows*, or *should* have known if they had bothered to think about it, that their policy or design are going to exclude people with disabilities, then yes, that is essentially the equivalent of spitting at us in the face and saying, "Go away, we don't want to serve you." This is how I react when I come across Yet Another Video on line (the vast majority of them) that doesn't have captions and nothing done to at least provide a transcript, or buy a dvd to find the special features Yet Again don't have captions even if the main feature does.

Belinda said...

I'm shocked that a new building would not be accessible to all people. It was good that the blond woman made no attempt to excuse the situation. She didn't assume she knew how to satisfy you but asked what she could do. She wasn't to blame but she got it (you opened her eyes and I bet they stay open) and was someone I'd trust to carry the message forward.

Kasie said...

I'm thinking she will look at the world differently because of you!
And when she trains others, she will teach them to look at the world differently, because of you. And so on and so forth...
Thanks for all you do!

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

Purposeful exclusion has now entered my vocabulary - and what a useful phrase it is - encapsulates a whole lot of discrimination in two words.

I am sorry you had to confront it yet again - but am grateful that you do because I do believe in this instance it will make a difference - it kind of sounded like she really got it,


Wee Jenny said...

Fantastic response! I like the expression and would like to share this post with as many people as I can! :) You are so strong, physically and mentally. I know what the carpets are like in some of the hotels in Scotland and they are ridiculus! I respect you. :)

Lene Andersen said...

Effin' awesome!You were most definitely on a roll and a very good one at that. What a difference in the attitude shown by this rep and the one from Metro a couple months ago. Speaking of Metro, I just posted a follow-up to my experience...

Purposeful exclusion. I'll be using that one, as well. Brilliant phrase.

Anonymous said...

I have really severe cigarette smoke allergies, but Ohio has a law that you can't smoke within 20 feet of the door. The hotel where we spent the weekend had brand *new* benches with ashtrays 10 feet from the automatically opening doors that pulled the smoke into the lobby. I spoke to the manager who remembered me making a similar complaint last spring... in fact for about 4 years running. They not only haven't fixed the problem, they made it worse. Purposeful exclusion indeed, if you can't get into the building, or having gone in, can't get out.

Anonymous said...

Love the way you "handled" the hotel manager and from what I have read and believe there will be something done with reagrds to this very crappy scenerio you had to endure. As far as the term "purposeful exclusion" so very true and so very brilliant. Keep being you Dave, you are absolutely amazing!!!!

Rachel said...

First post, been lurking, got here from Lene's blog that my mom told me about. Gaah! So many connections.

I need to remember that phrase. "Purposeful exclusion." It encapsulates everything in two words. That is awesome. Thank you.

I've got a rare type of dwarfism and let me tell you nothing in this world is built for an adult who is just over four feet tall -- or about 127 centimeters, for those who don't grok feet. I know I'd have real problems using that setup, and I know a number of people who wouldn't be able to at all.

You rock!

Anonymous said...

The wheeliecrone says -
What a brilliantly appropriate term, Dave - "Purposeful exclusion".
Do you mind if I use it here in Australia? We have an enormous amount of purposeful exclusion here in Australia.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Anyone, anywhere can use purposeful exclusion it's way way way more accurate most of the time than simply 'inaccessible' Ta

AlisonH said...

Superbly said and done. And written so that the rest of us can show others--pass it on! Thank you thank you thank you.

Colleen said...


And I bet that room *looked* more useful than it was....even most able bodied people don't like sitting on high stools to do any work...*everyone* will likely find the redone business center more useful, just like Lene wrote about when she convinced the architects to rethink accessibility. I love that kind of efficiency.