Saturday, September 23, 2017

Ticked Boxes

All the boxes were ticked:

flat entrance
bars around the toilet
bars in the shower
doors wide enough to accommodate my chair
toilet on floor not hanging from wall

Those are my basic asks. This had been checked assiduously and everyone was confident that we were good to go. So we arrived at the hotel, tired from a full day lecture and a long drive. Rolled into the lobby to find that a wheelchair user couldn't get from the lobby to the room because there were three steps up to the elevator.

To get up to the elevator we had to leave the hotel, go back into the parking lot push uphill to the next door, the door they brought luggage through from large tour buses, and then push up the really steep ramp leading to the door. It was hard to do. I usually push myself and rarely ask Joe for help but I simply couldn't do the ramp. Joe himself had difficulty, even with my help making it up the steep slope to the door.

In the morning we went down for breakfast only to find that they had two huge luggage carts piled high with luggage and one cleaning cart blocking my way out. We moved the cleaning cart and then I carefully picked my way by the luggage cart really hurting my hand along the way. But I got by and I got out.

Then it was back into the lobby but something had happened to the door overnight and now it opened and closed quickly. I rolled back to the door because, again, the slope was steep and I had to use hands and feet to get up it. But the door would close just before I got there, the automatic sensor couldn't see me. So it was down and back up, down and back up, down and back up, the third time Joe stuck his foot in the door and held it as it pushed hard against his foot to close. But I got in.

I went straight to the desk, told them that I hated going into hotels through back doors and that if they had one disabled entrance and a car park full of cars parked in disabled bays they shouldn't be blocking that one door, I told them I had hurt my hand in trying to get by and that my hand was integral to my movement.

They stared at me.

Said not a word.

Just stared at me.

It is amazing what the privileged think is good enough for others. It's amazing no one though that it might be a problem for people having to use back door entrances. It's amazing that they call themselves accessible yet treat their disabled guests as second class citizens.

Let me give a hint. If what you think is good enough for others isn't good enough for you ... you are, without question a bigot.


Unknown said...

Dave I am always sorry to hear about your struggles in a non disabled world. They will not get it unless they actually hire a person living with a disability to assess their accessibility. In my role as an employment support counselor I had several members living with disabilities put "understanding and assessing accessibility" as a skill set. I'm hoping in the future this will be an important skill that employers are looking for.
I am only a cane user so I can still adapt to the non accessible barriers of accessibility but it causes me pain something most people like to avoid. It makes a difference that you may not see today but it does so keep it up.

ABEhrhardt said...

Write a book, Dave: The Disabled Person's Guide to True Accessibility.

Put all these anecdotes in. Organize it in the Table of Contents. Put a checklist in so people know what questions to ask, the ones you've figured out the hard way. Most of us don't get around as much as you do, and the forewarning would be invaluable for when we do.

You shouldn't still be able to write this column.

clairesmum said...

People are prejudiced, you know it better than I do, and have NO idea what it means to be disabled. They truly do not have any idea what you are talking about. So you have to tell them what you need and that it is their responsibly to provide it. Asking to meet with a manager in the office ensures that you will have privacy..if we are called out for our failures we all react defensively, and you are not trying to shame someone. You want to get to your room and relax just like everyone else. The hotel promised to provide that to you on your arrival. You did your part in verifying that all the requirements were met.

What if you firmly request what you need for assistance - that the manager provide 2 concierge/bellboy/maintenance staff who have the physical and customer service abilities required for the job to assist Joe, you and your chair (as you are one unit in terms of mobility) and your luggage travel safely and comfortably from the lobby to your reserved room.

If they are not inclined to cooperate, sitting in the lobby and making a loud cell phone call to their 800 number is likely to get you some response from management. If they call the police, you and Joe can show them your reservations and explain that the merchant is failing to provide the services that were agreed upon. Sometimes you have to speak up loud and clear to try to balance the power differential.

I don't know if this would help, or if it is even is hard to see and feel your distress. As Alicia says, you shouldn't still be able to write this column. Wish I knew how to be of effective assistance, Dave.