Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Oh. Well. What. Can. You. Do?

Typically, I like new hotels. They, typically, get accessibility and, typically, there are fewer worries. Older hotels tend to bend the definition of accessibility to the breaking point. Once at an older hotel in Hull, England, a hotel said it was accessible but when we got there there were several steps up the the front door, the parking was blocks away and our room was on the second floor. When challenged about the accessibility of the room the clerk said simply, "Most of our guests can get there just fine." Oh. Accessible for the majority.

New hotels though, especially those built in the last few years tend to be much more cognisant of the needs of those with atypical needs. And as such we checked into our hotel with a sense of optimism, which was richly rewarded. The hallways are wide, the doors are wide, the room is large, the bathroom beautiful. Awesome.


(You knew there was a 'but' coming didn't you?)

The parking lot, brand new, smelling of paint and empty space, held not a single accessible parking space. Yesterday we were rushing to get me in and up to the lobby as I was busting for 'relief' ... so we didn't look hard, we just took the closest we could find. There was no problem because when we arrived there were few cars there. Today, though, there were more cars so we drove around and looked for the blue badge space and ... couldn't find it at all.

We were sure it had to be there.

I noticed a hotel clerk leaving her shift so I called to her to ask where the accessible parking spaces were. She said, "Oh, there over here." She walked away and came back a couple of seconds and said, "I can't find them, they are always near the elevator." She had just assumed that the spaces would be where the spaces should be. But they weren't there. She suggested we speak to the manager.

We spoke to the manager who was aware there weren't any parking spaces and said, in explanation, "They didn't figure them in when it was done. It was an oversight."

Um. OK.

He looked at me as if he'd answered. It was an oversight. An "Oh, well, what can you do"

I suggested he fix the oversight by having accessible parking bays put in. I knew it could be done, we did it in the parking area of where I work. It took time and effort but it was done. It's really not hard.

I get that people make mistakes.

I don't get that people don't care to fix the mistakes.





Anonymous said...

A while ago, I gave a friend a ride to a (US) government building for family services. It was a re-purposed store not a brand new building. But the street and parking and sidewalks were all brand new.

There were about 30 spots right in front of the building. Not one was marked handicapped. The handicap spots were maybe 200 yards away, and not enough of them, they were entirely full. I dropped my friend at the door, and waited for someone to leave.

When I was finally able to park, I discovered that they didn't even have a curb cut at the front entrance. I'm in a manual chair, but usually can handle curbs, but this one was too high. It was difficult even for walking people with mobility issues.

We tracked down the manager, who said they had just opened, were aware of the problem and trying to correct it. But in this day and age, how can they build a government building to be so inaccessible? How can a contractor bidding on government contracts be so oblivious?

Anonymous said...

After I stop shaking my head in disbelief I try to take some solace in that when comparing myself to the thickheadedness (is that even a word?) of others I feel like a bleeding genius!! Honestly! I don't consider myself an exceptionally bright light - but in the darkness of such ignorance - I am brilliant.

Constantly coming up against this makes me a little upset - so I try to find something to feel better in it. Yes indeed - move over Einstein!! :-)

Tamara said...

I can understand how a mistake is made. We all make mistakes. Someone forgot to put the accessible parking in the plans, or someone read the plans incorrectly when doing the work. I'm sure there are many steps in the process that I don't understand. What seems simple to an outsider is often complex.

But, like you, what I don't understand is not doing anything about it nor planning to do anything about it.

I don't know the complexities of converting spaces to make them accessible, but seems there has to be some temporary workaround - like marking every other space in a section "no parking" so there's extra room - that can be used until the space can be reconfigured.

"It was an oversight" needs to be followed by it's own "but" - "but here's how we can help you today and here's what we will be doing in the future."

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

It seems paradoxical that they pay so much attention to accessibility inside the building and then neglect parking. And then when it is pointed out to them they just shrug!

I agree with Tamara, a good response would have included, here's how we can help you today.


Liz Miller said...

I don't get how they were approved by the buildings inspector or by zoning without having the handicapped parking spaces. In Loudoun, where I live, you just can't get approved to open for business without them.

Anonymous said...

Oooh makes me want to do some direct action along the lines that Tamara suggests. Let’s go down there with pots of paint and put yellow hash marks in every other space and the access symbol in the ones that remain. Let’s mark curbcuts where they need to be and build wooden ramps where there are only steps. Let’s start in Hull.

Anonymous said...

I thought our local Community Living would 'get it', but no. They replaced their main office front door and building facade. They replaced the door with a regular front door. Not accessible at all.

Anonymous said...

As someone only recently introduced (though this blog, primarily) to accessibility issues, may I make a suggestion? Frankly, when we hear the word "accessible," many of us do not automatically make the connection to disabilities or wheelchairs. So if someone randomly asked me if there was accessible parking, for example, I would assume they were asking if there was parking nearby that a person could use. And until recently, if they asked if a hotel room was accessible, I would have simply thought the question was odd, since no hotel would have rooms that can't be accessed.

I'm not making excuses for the lack of curb cuts or automatic doors, or the general cluelessness of so many of us. But until the rent of us catch up, it might make communication easier if people specified "disability access" or "wheelchair access" rather than assuming "accessibility" means the same thing to everyone.

Baba Yaga said...

My uncharitable side thinks fixing things which are wrong requires effort, and who wants to make effort when it doesn't directly benefit him? (Or when he hasn't stopped to notice that there often *is* a direct benefit from benefitting others: this seems to be a concept many people are missing.)

My more charitable side observes that it's almost universal to have a blind spot concerning the _possibility_ of changing what is, especially when 'what is' concerns seemingly fixed things like buildings. A bit of disability awareness makes one very aware that kerb cuts (or kerbs sans cuts) and parking spaces are very far from fixed: but one has to be made aware. (Still: it's to be hoped the day will come when people grow up aware.)

I'm - partly - with Anon. at 22.35, too: my bet is that the hotel in Hull really didn't understand what 'accessible' meant to you, and thought you were checking whether there were enough parking spots, or similar. On this crowded islad, that's always a concern.

(I'm gobsmacked, though, by "Most of our guests can get there just fine": what earthly relevance had that to the fact that _you_ couldn't get there?! - The only thing standing in the way of a good burst of righteous indignation is the knowledge that I have at times been just as stupid, if not necessarily in quite that way.)

I was recently brought up hard against the fact theat 'accesible' *doesn't* mean 'wheelchair-/zimmer-frame-/crutch-/pushchair- accessible to most people. This was a couple of days before the Paralympics began: this year, at last, they've have been taken really seriously and given decent coverage, so there was no way anyone could be unaware that there were many athletes with assorted types of disability.

Some friends and I were discussing the post-Olympics impact of the Olympics, and I mentioned that the Olympic village must hugely increase the stock of accessible housing: all of the people with me, reasonably enlightened and socially concerned as they were, took 'accessible' to be synonymous with 'affordable'. (And there was me, socialist that I am, supposing it'd become social housing. Oh, well.)

Not that misunderstandings over language have much to do with unwillingness to deal with a problem when one has become aware of it!