Friday, November 29, 2013

What is Accessibility: A Quiz

Outside the window is snow, lots and lots of snow. We have been in London, Ontario, for a conference and, as Toronto was dry, we found the piles of snow to be exciting. Rah! The winter's here. That lasted for about 3.7421 seconds when I got in my chair, in the snow and tried to make it to the hotel. The frame of my wheelchair was cold, my gloves got wet when I pushed and my fingers ached from the damp frosty climate that pervaded my mittens. It's winter.

We managed the barriers and got around quite nicely, until we decided to go to the mall after work. Store after store was impassible because of the displays and the piles of product placed everywhere. Guess the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act gets packed away at Christmastide. I did manage some shopping, one in a store that I could only get in through the door. The woman was nice, apologized (cause that make it better) but then said, "There's lots of ways of being accessible though, aren't there. Tell you what, I'll be your personal shopper, you tell me what you want and I'll bring you the selection we have.

Oh, OK, not the same as shopping in, but she's thinking of accessibility in a big picture kind of way. I told her what I wanted, she said they had only a few in stock. Off she went and came back with a selection. They had what I wanted. I chose one, she went away with my money in her hand, came back with my change, my receipt and what I'd purchased in a bag. She popped it into my wheelchair bag and I was out.

I'm confused.

Was that accessibility?

I couldn't get in.

But she made shopping possible.

I couldn't get in.

But I got what I wanted.

I couldn't get in.

But I felt like a valued customer.

Hmmmm ...

Here's where you come in ... is that accessibility?


Bill Woodward said...

Not if you are still waiting outside the store. Nice lady to go over and above to help you but you were not able to ""shop" if you wanted to do.

Naomi said...

Yes and no.
For me it's ideal. Because I hate shopping, and wish everybody would just show me what I ask for, and if they don't have it, I could leave.
But for those who like to browse, think, touch things, compare. No it's not.

Dave Hingsburger said...

For clarification I was just inside the front door.

Utter Randomness said...

I would say that it isn't accessibility, but that I would have appreciated the creative solution.

It bugs me that most businesses think that they're accessible as long as you can get in the door. There's a Second Cup on my way to work that I'd love to give my business, except they have a completely unnecessary step at the front door, and no way to get to the back of the line from their accessible side door.

On a side note, businesses with less than 30 employees don't have to comply with AODA until 2025, I believe.

Glee said...

If you can't go around the store and browse then it is so NOT accessibility. What if you didn't know what you wanted and just wanted to see everything they had. Would she have brought every single thing out to you so you could see it. I hate the shops near xmas and just don't go there. Waste of time and I just get pissed off!!

liebjabberings said...

That lady got a good grade for customer service - and made a sale - but the store was still inaccessible for you to go in and browse, which might have resulted in more sales.

Part of my disability is being unable to stand for very long, another lack of energy, so shopping is a horror and I mostly do it online. When I take the walker, it is almost impossible to get through the narrow spaces, say, around clothes racks (and the clothes stick out in random ways).

I have shopped successfully by taking an assistant. She kept feeding me clothes to try. It was still exhausting.

It sounds like what the US used to call 'separate but equal.' Thing rarely stayed equal - you found someone to attend to you and be your assistant that day, but on a busier day you would have gotten glares from other people who were waiting to be checked out because you were absorbing too much of her time.

At least Joe didn't have to do all you fetching and carrying in this store.

I dunno: I'm as confused as you are about your question.


PS At least you got what you wanted.

wendy said...

Trying to imagine myself in that situation. I like to shop. I like to look around. Sometimes, even when I think I know what I'm looking for I find something different or else while meandering the aisles. So, accessible, I don't think so. (I walk, not roll, so I'm only guessing).

I compare this to the shop you talked about in Toronto that you couldn't go into but the store owner brought out sparkly broaches for you to examine more closely. A wonderful bit of awareness and helpfulness on their part, but not accessible.

Laura said...

I kind of agree with Naomi. There are people who pay lots of money to have someone do the choosing and bring them things to consider. I however would hate that because to me half the fun is just the looking at everything. My son's school does a holiday shop every year. Last year they set it up on the inaccessible stage. When I mentioned it at the next meeting they said it was ok because they brought him a selection of things to choose from. I didn't think it was ok because the rest of his class got to go up and look at everything together and I think he missed out on the social aspect of the activity. So overall I say no because they took away your choice.

Kasie said...

Not for me. I am not comfortable with alot of attention when I'm shopping. I don't like to shop. When I have to, I want to go in and shop until I find what I want or don't unecumbered by other people's assistance. Stand by assistance is great. Checking in with me is fine. But, anyone who comes in a business should be able to choose to look around on their own. She sounds like a lovely lady, doing the best she knows. When she know better hopefully she'll do better.

Anonymous said...

No, not accessible. You were not able to have the same shopping experience (cruising the aisles) an abled person would have. Perhaps something unexpected would have caught your eye. You'll never know with the sort of "accessibility" you were provided.

Online shopping is accessible, because it enables/limits everyone in the same way.


Kris S. said...

Seems to me like a clever but temporary solution. Combined with the clerk's assurance that she will take immediate steps to resolve the identified problem, I think we're getting closer.

And I would add that the solution she offered only works if you have a really good idea of what you want and it's something you're willing to have a clerk assist you with. Not sure how it would work if one was shopping for sex toys, for example.

Colleen said...

I'm voting no it was not accessibility. It is not what you wanted to do. I think accessibility means that everybody gets to do the same things at the same time in the same place with everybody else. That wasn't it.


Jo Kelly said...

I'm with the majority on this one Dave, as nice as the lady was this is NOT accessibility. I would not have enjoyed the experience and would not have given them my money. I thought Ontario was more advanced than the rest of Canada? What the heck....

Flemisa said...

Glad someone likes our snow! At least it is mostly white and clean so it looks nice still.

Accessible - no.
Good service --YES. And sometimes that is exactly what is needed.

Anonymous said...

I’m wondering if there is a definition of accessible. For the person working in the shop, this practise complied with a definition of accessibility, i wonder whether she views this as having the possibility of using the facility for it’s primary purpose, some sort of participation?
If it is, then that sort of accessibility is desirable but as a small slice of something bigger, that is about (slice gets bigger...) not encountering barriers, equivalent access, but preferably, dignity and respect (O’Brien, 1987, five service accomplishments). Sadly services (like this shop!) are still challenged by these 26 years on.....

Andrea S. said...

Agreed with the rest -- good service, but NOT equality, NOT full accessibility. It is, at best, partial accessibility (to the things you can think of or remember to ask about, excluding anything you might not realize you wanted until you saw it ... I'm thinking here, as just one broad category of examples, of some of the impulse purchases of fun things for Ruby and Sadie that you have written about here over the years ... weren't some of the things you've bought for them things you weren't specifically looking for but just happened to notice in a store?)

wheeliecrone said...

Here's my view on this:
It is not accessibility, because you could not move around in the shop, no matter how nice the lady was.

Here's a thought for the nice lady:
You only bought what you asked for and what the nice lady brought to you. If you could have wandered freely in the shop, you might well have bought much, much more!

Tamara said...

I agree with most (all?) of the other comments. That's not accessibility. I don't think she's thinking about accessibility in a big picture way; I think she's a person who cares about people and likes to solve problems. Maybe she's a person who even said - wow - this is not going to work for people who use walkers or wheelchairs, but some decision maker didn't care.

And, I don't think she really made shopping possible; she made buying possible for you. It fit your need at that particular moment, but who knows if it would have fit the needs of the next person who was using a wheelchair.

Anonymous said...

I think it was more of a consideration than an accessibility.

Moose said...

I went food shopping the other day and the store I go to, which is usually good about having wide, clear aisles, was full of extra "holiday" displays that made getting around insane.

I got distracted and didn't get a chance to find a manager, but I'll be back later this week. The managers all recognize me enough to say hi, so I'm going to make a suggestion to them - that they wait until the store is closed or very quiet, grab one of the handicapped motorized carts, and take a ride around the store so they can see the problem for themselves.

They're good folks and I expect them to "get it", but there's nothing like seeing it from the right perspective.

Anonymous said...

Everyone should have the right to browse freely in a store . There should be no physical barriers to stop wheelchairs or walkers.

Mary said...

Part of it at least is context.

If I'm in the Ye Olde part of Stratford-upon-Avon, and a shop is also a centuries-old listed building with a skinny, low-lintel door and a ruddy great big step or two out the front, then I'm happy enough to accept the (access symbol + doorbell + assistants willing to bring items out) solution as the closest to accessibility that they can reasonably get. It still sucks that I can't just go in and browse, and that I am obliged to feel the extra purchase obligation of "they've spent so much time showing me things," but although I may feel frustrated by that I won't feel too angry or like I've been purposely excluded.

If, on the other hand, I'm in a shopping mall that's younger than the DDA, and the reason I can't get into/around a store is because they've decided the doorway is a good place for temporary displays... then although it's nice of the staff to be willing to fetch items, it means someone has actively removed the real accessibility and replaced it with an inferior system.

Penelope said...

Are we talking social definition or legal definition? In many places it is legally accessible as long as the store makes accommodations for you to be able to buy from their shop (whether that's their bringing you items to look at or making it possible for you to physically enter and browse). My town is actually using this specifically as the reason that the library is not violating the ADA (because a librarian can get you the book you'd like even though the ramps up to most of the floors of the library are far steeper than the ADA allows).

Socially, no it's not accessible. You aren't fully able to have the same experience of browsing as someone else.

Janielle said...

I had a similar experience in Connecticut. I went to look for a jacket in a store. You'd think the racks would be easy to get around, but they were not. So me and my mother just knocked stuff over. I know this is the wrong thing to do, but hey, I want to go shopping too and try stuff on. I wish people would realize this because it's a big problem, and it's everywhere. Thank you.

DandG said...

How would this translate to someone with a different disability, such as blindness? What would it take for a blind person to have "the same" shopping experience as an average shopper? To what extent do we expect stores in general to provide that?

Great conversation!