Tuesday, May 21, 2013

WWRS (what would readers say)

We went to a movie yesterday in a building that was newly built. We'd looked forward to going there. I'm going only write a short blog because Joe and I have discussed this to death and we really want your opinion.

We got to the entry doors - they were huge glass doors, extremely heavy. We looked for the automatic door opener, there wasn't one. Nothing. Nowhere. I said that I thought it was odd that a new building wouldn't have easy access doors. But I went in through the door that Joe held open, realizing as I did that if Joe hadn't or if another person didn't, open the door, I'd not have been able to get in. Strange.

Once in and rolling over to get tickets we noticed that there was an accessible door, off to the side, completely separate from the other doors. Now it was beside them, though there was a visible barrier preventing that door from being seen when entering the main door. There had been no sign, that we saw, from outside the building indicating where disabled access was ... it was just a tucked off and out of the way, semi-hidden door.

Maybe its my natural inclination to see this kind of design as purposefully done - I wondered what the purpose was. Now this theatre is where a lot of the films are shown during the Toronto Film Festival and a lot of famous bums have been seated in the very plush seats that were in the theatre. They didn't have any real disabled seating in the theatre, either, but that's the subject of a post and a letter in coming days.

It was the door that bothered me.

Why create a whole new, out of sight, door for wheelchair users?

Why not just 'button' one of the many glass doors at the regular entry?

Could it be ...

No surely not ...

Could it be ...

No it can't be ...

Could it be that this building, which hosts some of the most beautiful people in the world has responded with a design that harks back to the 'ugly laws' ... making sure that none of 'those people' ever have to brush shoulders (or really brush hip to shoulder) with us less than perfect specimens?

Am I reading too much into this ... new building - separate, visibly and physically, door for disabled patrons ...

Could there be just a simpler reason for purposeful separating people with disabilities with the main stream of customers which enter the main doors?


John R. said...

I would say it is half and half. Part of the design is probably done without access in mind. Design a lovely and glorious entryway etc....

Then, there is an "oops" moment by the designer...she or he, while crafting the beautiful building says, crap....gotta make this place open for everyone. Gotta make an entry point for access for people who use wheelchairs and walkers and rollators and that stuff...Here's where I will put that.

In the mind of the designer it is more than likely not a purposeful slight. In fact, I bet the designer thinks that they are so wonderful for putting an access point in the building. I am not sure of Canada's building code laws but in the United States we have rules to ensure that buildings built after a certain time and ones that have federal or public money associated with them are all required "accessible" and barrier free. Does not mean that the access will be prominent. Just means you can get into the building.

So, I am not sure. I really do not want to believe that the design was "by design"!!!! There are my thoughts. Hope the movie was good.

Anonymous said...

It really rather smacks of "separate but equal", doesn't it? Of course, it really isn't equal, it's somewhere off to the side. True inclusion means you get to use the front door with everyone else, and not have to go around to the side and remain out of sight.

Jan Goldfield said...

Dave, I think that that sort of design is an afterthought. Someone, not the architect, catches the design omissions and says, 'Damn, we forgot to put the accessibility stuff in. We gotta do it to pass inspection and that's gonna cost us lots of bucks. Damn, I wish those laws didn't exist. They cost us too much money." I don't think those thoughts have anything exclusionary in them, just money. The builders hate the laws, not the people. They just don't care. Nothing new there.

Anonymous said...

just wondering if the big, heavy glass doors can't mechanically handle the automatic opener thing? Not a worthwhile excuse since that meant accessibility was not a factor in the design but an afterthought (likely to tick the box that makes is compliant with the law).

Belly (Liz McLennan) said...

I don't know if this was indeed an oversight, but it's a glaring one. At the very least (and I'm giving too much to the people who built this theatre) they "forgot" to create an accessible door and frantically added one....

Aw, hell. That's not how it is and we all know it. I reckon they created a separate entrance so that someone in a wheelchair doesn't impede the flow of bodies coming in - so that you're not "in the way" as it were.


You'd think, wouldn't you, that we, as a society are better than that. Sadly, we are not...and stories like this one make me worry that we might never be.

Karry said...

Not exactly universal design, is it? I think you must be right, Dave. It seems so illogical to put an extra door that isn't even visible from the front.

n. said...

to mangle an old quote, how many % of society have to be (actively or passively) out to get you, before it isn't paranoia anymore?!

n. said...

ie: accidental or on purpose, it's still wrong.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

I like Karry's comment - not universal design - it surely isn't! I cannot guess at the reasons. We have the tools we need to include everyone. We just don't use them. I don't understand.


Dave Hingsburger said...

Note to clarify (after first thanking your for your comments) the door that was made automatic was the same kind of door where there regular entrance was, I can see no reason why one of them couldn't have had an opener put on it. Again, thanks, I'me enjoying your thoughts. I've emailed my complaints about the seating to the theatre and have included a link to this blog, I'd like them to see how others respond or interpret the message of the separate side door.

Anonymous said...

If it was a problem with the design they should have fixed it.

I have no idea what the intension was but if it is such a good movie theater they should put some money into fixing it for everyone. At this point I would not reccomend that theater to anyone.


Maggie said...

The architect is an able-ist @#$ who never gave a thought to either accessibility or (gasp) inclusion.

Some walkie-talkie was worried that the wheelie's so-called slow progress might impede the faster walkers (guess he never watched a powerchair driver on the sidewalk).

I can't see any responsible, rational reason for this situation in a brand-new building. I hope your letter is clear (of course it will be), scathing (because you're usually such a nice guy, but this deserves it), and public -- like, say, copied to the Letters to the Editor page of the largest paper.

Mary said...

My first thought was - it's afterthought access, shoehorned into the easiest spot to bring the building up to code.

My second wase - it could be to keep it out of the path of inconsiderate people. I've seen so many button-doors that spend more time broken than operative, because the walkie-talkies think they "open too slowly" or can't be bothered looking for the button and decide to use brute force on them. Let the brutes haul forcibly on the more durable centre doors, keep the delicate self-opening door out of their path.

My third thought is that the push-button door might be located somewhere that reduces the distance for the accessible loo or the lift or the accessible parking area... I have seen separate entrances in the name of not making people with mobility difficulties walk all the way around the facade, but I think you would have noticed and reported if this was the case in this instance.

I suspect my first thought to be most accurate, though. In my experience, to non-disabled people, disability is an afterthought.

Rachel in Idaho said...

Whether it was deliberate or a last minute "crud, we need that door!" decision, it's really weird and not acceptable to have it hidden off to the side. Especially as you couldn't even see it! There's a pretty clear message there, whether intended or otherwise.

I'd really want to find out who designed that and why before I go up in flames about it, but it is certainly a matter for complaint and investigation!

CapriUni said...

Boy, do I have thoughts on this!

Dave, you've been dealing with this kind of thing for six years (?)... I've got a 43 year head start on you.

Personally, I think it's something that was done "on accident--" i.e. something done on purpose, but that the person/people responsible are so steeped in their own prejudice that they can't even see that they have a prejudice. Their "thought process" (ahem) is probably:

"This is the way it has always been done. So this is the way it should always been done... [Those poor, pitiful, uglies don't want to be seen, so we'll be kind, and spare them the embarrassment]."

The fact that so many people are involved in the process erecting this cineplex, and no one caught this (or if they did, had the courage or authority to speak up) says a lot about how deeply this prejudice has saturated our culture.

Anonymous said...

I’m inclined to think that accessibility was an afterthought and an extra not integral to design. :-/
I’ve had a go arguing here in the comments before that disability is experienced by social units, couples, families, communities, and in the contexts I’ve argued it in before (like use of disabled parking badges) it has made people angry and outraged.
But I think here I can maybe make a clearer point.
If disability is purely experienced by the individual, in a separate space and dimension to those who don’t have disabilities, then an invisible door off to the side makes sense. ‘The disabled’ will soon know where their facilities are and use them in their ‘disabled’ world.
But so many of your stories Dave are about experience of disability in the context of family, community, like the signing family at the restaurant you wrote about recently. And you and Joe discussing your experiences.
Of course it’s vitally important to understand that the embodiment of the condition that leads to disability is experience by the individual with disabilities, and I in no way want to claim experience of that on the basis that my partner is disabled.
But, to me the notion of DISABILITY is constructed and experienced in the social dimensions, in communal contexts.
And that’s why it’s not ok to have the door off to the side and invisible.
I think understandings of disability need to shift for access and exclusion issues to be effectively addressed.
And that might require moving away from individualistic thinking to communal experience.
That’s why an invisible door to the side is wrong.

Anonymous said...


in my opinion its the way architects are still only choosen for pompoes design.

My grandma lives in a newly designed building for assisted living for the elderly. Except they used tiles outside the open ways in the building that are extremly slippery in winter. And all the tiles had to be changed after slippery wintersnow accidents and more than six years of struggeling with salt.

Also there are no shutters on the windows in the building because " they would disturb the context of the building".

I have no idea who chooses such designers and architects, but I would force them by law to live in their buildings for at least a year.


Flemisa said...

Lack of knowledge, lack of thought, lack of caring and lack of challenge -- all strong contenders for reasons. With an aging population in Canada it is not only someone in a wheelchair who uses and can appreciate accessibility.
Maybe they should build with a single set of prominent doors for "The Barrier Seekers" and everything else would be done for extremely easy accessibility.

Clairesmum said...

Separate but equal is a fallacy of thought, not a justification for subconscious prejudice, conscious prejudice packaged up as "trying to make it easier for them"' or an excuse for poor planning, poor communication, or just plain meanness!
How about arranging for the designer, architect, and other key decision makers to spend two hours in a manual WC accompanied by an assistant who is sensitive to mobility impairments or other experiences of being 'disabled' getting around in the city? You could include accessing this building, getting refreshments, using restroom, and watching the movie, all while seated in WC as a learning activity. Or maybe an activity for a group of high school or university students to do as part of a class with related readings, on public policy, law,history,social science,personal narratives of mobility impairment. A media component such as creation of training video or newspaper reporter might get more public focus not just on what went wrong but on how much harder it really is to deal with physical barriers all the time! Ten there is no excuse for the possible ignorance of designers, builders,etc

Anonymous said...

I agree that it's pretty ridiculous. Poor design, but I would not assume it was ill-intended.

I work at a college in a building that has an automatic opener added to a main door as an afterthought. It's constantly breaking, presumably since students in a hurry force the door open or closed. If there's a certain time of day - when a show ends, or when classes get out - that people will be streaming out of a building, I can't see an automatic door opener surviving very long if the doors are heavy.

So I get the logic of putting the automatic door off to a side, although it would have been better if the design were simply different. (They do it in grocery stores, after all.) And at minimum, it needs to be well-labeled.

Anonymous said...

I feel a bit differently - I would actually appreciate having a separate entrance, far from the maddening crowd. I like to enter the building on my terms and time -not feeling rushed by others or having to accommodate the abled. I would like to steer my chair without the worry of ankles. I would like to then join the group in enjoying the program. That is what I'm there for. As mentioned in another post many abled use the path of less resistance - and block my way. (Like using the stalls in the bathroom.) Like athletes, chair users have varying degrees of agility. I prefer not to have my struggles on display. I'd be glad to slip in to the side.

Jo Kelly said...

I generally won't go into a building that has a separate entrance - I feel that this is against the concept of universal design and no matter how the planners want to spin it - it's exclusionary.

Connie said...

Automatic doors benefit lots of people—parents with strollers, children, delivery people, to list just a few.

This morning I arrived at school to volunteer just as a second-grader (seven-almost-eight-year-old) arrived from an appointment. I opened the first door. Kaya went through and struggled to open the inner door. Both are heavy metal-framed glass.

Both of us are presumably strong enough to open the door. Both of us have two working legs. Both of us could have benefited from a self-opening door. I do wish we'd remembered to push the button.