I am a strong advocate for accessibility. I believe this because accessibility, on a wide scale, helps everyone. Accessibility is an everyday problem, considering ultimate need for people to have accommodations. Sometimes you have to come up with unique and creative ways to get things done. Here’s a perfect example.
Some friends and I went to Myrtle Beach a while back. We were all so excited to go to the beach. Yet, there was no way for me to get down to the beach without my wheelchair getting stuck. We tried to find a sand wheelchair, but no luck. My friends had the brilliant idea to try using a sheet. My first thought was okay let’s try it! I always look at challenges this way— we try something, and if it doesn’t work, then we try something different. The sheet worked superbly and I made it to the spot on the beach that my sights were on.
Several years ago on a trip to New York City, I was looking forward to going to Dr. Jay’s clothing store. Unfortunately, they didn’t have an elevator, only an escalator to their second story men’s clothing area. Even though I could not get into the department, they brought the clothes down to me. The attitude of the staff made me feel appreciated as a person, and also proved that this store considered me a valued customer, despite a lack of wheelchair accessibility. Not all businesses are that accommodating, but this store was quick to help.
What drives me crazy is that even though it is an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant, it does not mean the area is functional; particularly if the wheelchair operator is alone. The ADA is a federal law that protects people with disabilities, providing disability rights such as building access. But still, shortcuts are taken. For instance, meeting particular measurements alone doesn’t necessarily mean the area is accessible. My pet peeve is that they do not have people with disabilities write these laws or check areas for accessibility, so in some cases even while they are “meeting” regulations, they still are unusable.
For example, let’s consider hotels. Finding a roll-in shower in a hotel is like finding a treasure chest at the end of an ocean rainbow. The only thing more difficult is making clear what a roll-in shower actually is. A roll in shower is completely level with the ground, with no rise whatsoever, or barrier of any kind. Many people consider the showers with a short lip of a few inches one of these showers but they are wrong. Two or three inches might as well be six feet. Also, most of the time the employees have no idea what a roll-in shower even is, although, most try to be as helpful as possible. As a last resort, I’ve been offered showering in the pool locker area or using the local YMCA. While these solutions aren’t ideal, they are a solution to a sticky situation! Pun intended!
One more thing about hotels is that most handicap rooms only have one king bed. For someone like myself who need assistance, this hinders the ability to find a decent room and still have the accommodations they need. I usually ask for a roll-away cot brought in for my support person.
One of the most accessible cities is Atlanta, Georgia. The infrastructure of the sidewalks and the roads downtown are very accommodating for everyone. There was plenty of room to pass people and there were a lot of places that I could drive my wheelchair with no barriers. The overall attitude of the people was helpful as well.
The most important thing about dealing with these challenges for me is staying calm and thinking through the situation to overcome issues. Attitude, communication and kindness can make even the most inaccessible situation doable. I’ve found if I stay open-minded and willing to try, most things work out. Accessibility makes life easier for everyone. Think about it as you move through your bumpy roads each day. Until next time, this is how I roll.