Thursday, March 07, 2013

Not for U (1 of 2)

We went on an outing!

Joe and I headed over to see Luminescence showing in the University of Toronto Art Centre. It's a lovely walk from our place over to the University and we took our time wending our way there. We wandered the walkway through Queen's Park and enjoyed seeing the park in the middle of a Canadian winter. We got thoroughly and profoundly lost on campus and asked several people where the Art Centre was. Let's just say that they really need to raise their profile on campus. One woman, I'm guessing a professor, said that she's in sciences so doesn't know anything about the arts ... she was joking, but it's kind of a scary joke to make.

Finally we went to the Visitors Centre.

Let's stop and consider what a visitor centre is ... it's a place where, um, visitors go. It's kind of like the public face of the University and I would think that they would take this fairly seriously.



At least not for people with disabilities.

I went in through the doors and found that I was on a platform facing several steps heading down into the centre itself. There was a small elevator that had a big sign hanging off it saying, "Out of Service." There was nothing giving any indication that us disabled folks should do anything other than just turn round and leave. Joe went down to the woman who was serving someone else. She saw me sitting up on the platform and glanced away quickly - seeing me would require doing something I guess. Anyways she spoke to Joe and as I heard what he asked I wanted to clarify what he said so I hollered down to her. Hollered!! She gave no indication that me being up there, stranded, would effect her service in any way. So we had a brief interchange, yelling information back and forth.

I realized, then, that I hadn't asked the big question, so I called back to her, "Is it wheelchair accessible?"

She stated the obvious ... "It should be."



I said, frustrated, "Should be ... isn't very reassuring."

She said, "I haven't been over there in a while."

I said, "Shouldn't someone working in the visitors centre have the answer to basic questions about access?"

I guess she was done with talking to me, or maybe she was just hoarse from yelling to me up on the platform, because she then, ignored me.

Welcome indeed.

Visitor Centre --- maybe they should clarify just who classifies as a visitor.

The rest of our visit Saturday.


Anonymous said...

I get it - boy do I get it. I was in the Multiple Sclerosis Clinic today. For those unaware, Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord - and more. Many persons with MS have mobility issues - especially as the disease "progresses". This clinic is where they can have testing and see doctors specializing in the treatment and managment of MS.

Just try getting into the building. It is on the side of a hill - so if you park in the closest lot you have to go uphill on a narrow, narrow sidewalk with bushes overshadowing and encroaching on it. The designated "handicapped parking" is 2 driveways over, with no safe way to negotiate your way to the building. (The permit and doctors parking is all the closest.) Then you have to negotiate 2 sets of doors. Yes, one has the auto-open, but honestly, you age while the door opens. The elevator is old and doesn't line up with the floor. The reception area, which looks like it was recently redone, was partially hidden behind a post. You had to decide whether to squeeze in front of it or go around it. There was no table provided to fill out the paperwork - just a clipboard. The supporting literature was mostly at standing eye-line with some lower, but mostly dealing with children, such as "My Mommy has MS". The examination rooms were the farthest down the hall you could go. A woman came in, probably looking for some information, as she scoured the literature - not one person offered to help her - she left. The staff, although pleasant enough, spent time trashing patients. Ummm - we can hear you. It is frustrating. Do they realize how much effort it takes just to get to the office?? I know many of the readers of this blog are not supporters of the "try a day in the wheelchair" classes - but I'd love to throw a few of the folks working there in one - way down by the handicapped parking - and let them work their way into the space. Oh - huge handicapped washroom - you could hold a party - BUT there was NOT enough room for a chair between the wall and the toilet. Honestly! I know it is an old building - but if you are catering to those with needs - meet them!!!

Andrea S. said...

I *hate* when hearing, non-disabled people dismiss access questions by making guesses instead of helping people find out for sure. Questions about accessibility are just too fundamental for guessing. It's as if someone asked, "So is this building located in our city or is it located in this other city 1000 miles away?" and they said, "well it should be here" and just expected you to make the 45-minute trip from the suburbs to the supposed street address in person to find out whether or not you've just wasted a trip.

And I agree, they obviously weren't thinking of people with disabilities as "visitors" when they built and staffed the visitor's center.

Once I happened to pass by an audiologist's office (wasn't going there at the time myself, just happened to see it through a glass window on my way somewhere else) that was showing a video in the waiting room about some kind of hearing assistance technology--and the video had no captions. In an AUDIOLOGY center, where you would expect to meet a lot more deaf and hard of hearing people than usual. But when I commented on the need for captions to the woman who worked at the desk there, she couldn't seem to see why this was a problematic concept!

wendy said...

Unbelievable! Who exactly trains these people and what are they told their job entails? And even she'd had an answer available to her, say by looking it up on a computer, would it have been current? Apparently the building you were in was "accessible" because it had the elevator...until it stopped working!