Monday, April 21, 2014

Reporting, Permission and Expertise

Sometimes what's Rolling Around in My Head comes Tumbling Out of My Mouth:

A new convenience store has opened around the corner from us. It's a big one and it would be really handy to shop in. I knew they were doing renovations to the store so I went over to look and see if they'd made it accessible. It's easy to do because it has only one shallow step and then an long entranceway. A ramp could be put there, except for the work, easily. Instead I found that they'd fixed the long crumbling step by pouring new concrete and keeping the step there.


I'm going to have to call the city to find out the rules about this. It seems to me that if a building can be made accessible and it's being renovated it should be made accessible. But, I'll give Rob and call and see if he calls back.

Later that same day, Joe and I were crossing the street up at Yonge and Bloor. A fellow was handing out flyers announcing the fact that the new convenience story was now open. He handed one to me. I said, "That store is inaccessible. When they renovated, they didn't bother to remove the step. It's inaccessible to me and to anyone with a mobility device." He put his hands up as if he had been attacked, I didn't yell, I used a conversational tone of voice, I wanted him to have this information. "I didn't have anything to do with that, they just pay me to pass these flyers out ." I nodded. I understood that.

As I was crossing the road a woman, who had overheard the conversation, told me that I'd been unfair to the man. That he "couldn't have known it was inaccessible," and isn't responsible for the decision of whomever rented and renovated the store. I said to her, "I only informed him of the inaccessibility. I wasn't rude."

"And what is he supposed to do with that information? Magically make it accessible?" sarcasm dripped from the words.

"No," I said after taking a breath, "I think it might be wise for him not to hand the flyer to those who can't use the store. If a store disallows a part of the population access, then you shouldn't invite them to come visit."

"Well," she said, considering, "you have a point."

"And may I point out, to you," I said extremely calmly, "that I don't report to you. That disabled people don't need permission from the non-disabled to speak out about something affecting our lives. I don't need your direction. I don't need your input. When it comes to my life as a disabled person, I'm the expert OK? I'm shocked that you felt that somehow you had the right to give me corrective feedback."

"I was just trying to help."

"So am I," I called to her retreating back.

 All this and we were just going for tea. As we sat down, Joe passed me my tea and said, "Ah, just another lecture tour of the neighbourhood."

"Ha, ha," I said.

"It wasn't a joke," he said, smiling.


Kelly said...

I've been reading your blog for a while now and I love it because it really makes me think. Today I thought of you when my mail carrier left a packaged on the floor outside my apartment door - even though I was home at the time, he didn't bother to knock - and I had to figure out how to get the package inside and into my hands. You see, I have a very bad back and have a great deal of trouble bending over. While the packaged was not heavy, it was too large for my service dog to pick it up. I was frustrated, almost angry, as I kicked the box repeatedly until it made it across the floor and came to rest by my couch. Then I could sit down and pick it up. Unfortunately, this has happened before and I cannot seem to get delivery people to stop leaving my packaged on the ground. I'm sure they assume everyone can bend over to pick them up, but that is not the case.

I do not use a wheelchair and I do not have nearly as many problems with accessibility as you do. And I'm glad, because I don't think I would handle them with the grace that you usually seem to. It frustrates me a great deal. I get frustrated on your behalf sometimes.

Anyway, thanks for a great blog that makes me think.

emma vanderklift said...

Oh Dave. Sigh. And then grrrr.

Andrea S. said...

In the United States (and I realize you're Canada not the U.S.--I know you know I know that, but I indicate this for the benefit of others who don't know that I know that :-) ) under the Americans with Disabilities Act, not only newly constructed buildings but also any "significant" reconstruction of existing buildings need to be made accessible. Basically, if you're tearing down a part of the building then the part that you build back up again needs to be accessible. So in the U.S., what they did would be illegal under the ADA.

Alas, I don't know about Canada in general or Toronto in particular. If they haven't already, then Canada ought to pass its own equivalent of the ADA, though ideally they should first examine both the strengths and weaknesses in how the ADA has been implemented here during the past 24 years and consider how to maximize the successes while preventing the difficulties we have also faced. Plus, it should be something more up to date than the ADA to account for evolving technologies that today enable certain kinds of access (such as captions in movie theaters that can be seen by deaf people without annoying hearing people who don't want to see them) that were at best in their infancy at the time the ADA was passed and thus were not written into the ADA.

B. said...

Perhaps...perhaps the woman learned something. Like a pebble into a pond, we do what we can to ripple throughout society. Thanks, Dave.