Posted by: Miriam | 25/10/2010

Accessibility, Schmessability

Yea yea yea, we have all heard about the ADA. Thats why we have handicapped stalls in bathrooms, automatic doors, curbs that wheelchairs can get up, beeping cross walk signals, TTY numbers, and the plethora of other adaptations in the public realm for the alternately abled. You would think 20 years after the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed there would be hardly any issues left to kvetch about, right? No. Wrong. Try again.

So, as all the good readers of this blog know, I’ve been on crutches for 5 weeks  now. I’ll be on them for 2 more weeks, for a sum total of almost 2 months worth of crutching about town. I have noticed it is DAMN difficult to get around some times (aside from my inability to drive/ride/or even walk anywhere). So around my house is ok, I’m used to it, and I know private homes are not required to be ADA compliant. That being said, many businesses and public spaces are so not compliant.

I really started to notice when I went to Denver and Estes Park last week to visit friends and go to a conference, respectively. On the way we stopped at several gas stations for potty breaks (hey, it’s a 7 hour drive!). Not one of them was easily accessible to me on crutches. One bathroom, had a nice wide door and even the metal bars to help on the up and down part, but the door lock was just about eye level on me. I’m not-quite 5’5″, I’m pretty sure a wheelchair bound person would be hosed, or at least probably walked in on. The same gas station had a narrow sidewalk, and double doors. No biggie, right? You step up side-walk, open door one, and then open door two. Now try that when you can’t use your hands. Step up side-walk to first double door, push open, prop open with crutch (this requires swiftness in the crutching movement and some balance so when the door hits the crutch it doesn’t push you over), hobble through, repeat. Although this works, I am not a huge fan of having to use my crutch to prop open doors, its awkward and if the doors are heavy it is potentially ass over tea kettle dangerous.

Fast forward to Sunday, and sweet (yea, 13th row end zone tickets will make you jealous – THANKS MIKE!) seats at a Broncos game. Ok so the stadium is going to be ADA, it’s a new building. However the bus from Longmont to Denver, not so much. No ramp, no kneeling. Big 18″ stairs that are narrow and metal. I made Alicia carry my crutches up the stairs and Andrew stand behind me and I hopped up and down the stairs. I guess it’s a good thing that I am pretty athletic or I might not have been able to get up them (down is easy – hello gravity). Next up, the 1/4 mile circumnavigation around Invesco Field. So we get dropped off near the south end zone and our seats are the north end. There are stairs, and ramps. I choose ramps. It may be a little longer but it’s significantly easier and I don’t feel like I might topple backwards at any given moment. Luckily its pretty early and 8 gazillion people who normally fill the stadium are not quite there yet. The game was fun. Football takes forever, but I had fun. Getting back to the bus was another challenge though. So when a game ends, EVERYBODY leaves. Those previously mentioned 8 gazillion people are now all trying to get to the parking lot too. Crutches take up much more than the normal bubble. I dislike people kicking my crutches as I am trying to move through the crowd. Which happened quite frequently. Funny, it is hard to remain stable when 1/2 half of the weight-bearing gets moved out from under you.

So my conference was in Estes Park at the YMCA of the Rockies. Some of the buildings are older so ok, they may not be ADA accessible. But seriously, 3 flights of stairs is too damn much. There has been a decent amount of  renovation in the last few years there, but a lot of the new stuff is not up to code. The new sidewalks are so not wheelchair compliant. The automatic door openers do not open the doors (though they make a nice whirring sound). So in the main building we were in, they put in an elevator (sweet,  you would think). But they put in a door between the building  and the addition with the elevator, which does not have an auto door opener, and they kept the doors locked at all times. Of course I had to discover this the hard way. I had to walk around the building in the snow on a slippery wood deck.

This weekend really opened my eyes to how much I take for granted with my mobility. I’ve noticed on crutches for sure, but mostly its been doors and side walks and not almost insurmountable issues like 2 flights of stairs to get into a hotel room (because there were no handicapped accessible rooms in the entire building). So next time you take locking doors or washing your hands or hearing on the phone, think about the millions that cannot.

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Responses

  1. Nice post, M. Good food for thought.

  2. I love that on one of your photos only one of the toes are painted 🙂
    Heal fast sweetheart.


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