During the year after my larger stroke that I had to use a wheelchair, my family and I were stunned by how much more difficult the world became to navigate. There was simply a much lower lever of physical accessibility than we’d ever noticed…or expected. Even when I was able to reduce and eventually eliminate my reliance on my wheelchair, we still frequently found ourselves making comments like:
“Was there an accessible washroom in that restaurant?”
“Oh, good, stairs. Nice and accessible, just how we like it.” (We’re slightly sarcastic)
Physical Accessibility: The Best of the Best
My sterling example of physical accessibility is a family-run lodge on the edge of the Amazon jungle in Ecuador (not a joke, I swear…check them out at http://www.huasquila.com/). When we stayed there, not only was the lodge itself and several of the outlying cabins fully wheelchair accessible, but the staff nearly bent over backwards trying to modify their activities so that I could participate in everything they offered. I was using my cane at that time, but one of their most frequent customers was a man in a wheelchair.
Going From the Sublime to the Ridiculous
Back here in Canada, the two-story MacDonald’s restaurant across from Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum doesn’t even have an elevator in it. Go figure. Yay for physical accessibility in first-world nations!
Universal Design is Good for Everyone
Most of us think “wheelchair” when someone talks about physical accessibility. But when a space doesn’t have a high degree of physical accessibility, many more people are cut off from that space and whatever’s in it than just those in wheelchairs. If a wheelchair can’t get in, a person pushing a stroller can’t get in, or a person using a rolling walker. People using standard walkers or crutches are going to have trouble. I can handle stairs with my cane, but many people find it very difficult (especially going down stairs).
Make a space physically accessible to people with one kind of disability and you make it accessible for a bunch of other people too.
There are lots of other types of other accessibility too, besides physical accessibility, but lecture over. Now for the fun part.
If in your travels you see a place that’ s got such a high degree of physical accessibility that you want to stand on a table and cheer or that’s so heinously inaccessible that you want to vomit in a coatroom and disappear into the night, share it with me…I’ll get the best ones up on the blog where people can see them!
Send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. You must provide an email address (which will remain private) at which I can reach you. I reserve the right not to publish a story if I choose, for any reason.
Let’s give kudos where it’s due and a message where it’s needed!
- May 7, 2012 – Dave Hingsburger has thrown us a BEST! The Hilton hotel on 53rd and 6th in New York City has amazingly accessible rooms, and a sign in the room that says that they can move the furniture around to accommodate needs further if necessary. Read about the room’s features and Dave’s recommendation at http://davehingsburger.blogspot.ca/2012/05/my-badd.html. Thanks, Dave! UPDATE, June 8, 2012: Haven McWilliams has contacted me and also commended the Hilton Monona Terrace in Madison, Wisconsin for its amazingly helpful staff and highly accessible rooms, right next to the elevator on almost every floor. No wheel-in shower, but a big tub with a shower seat and extra bars along with a high toilet. Haven says that everything is a decent height and built very sturdy, yet is movable. They ask you to call ahead if you need any accommodations, but Haven has also been able to get an accessible room on short notice. Perhaps this high degree of accessibility and superior customer service is chain-wide? Thank you, Haven!
- August 20, 2014 – Donna Thomson, author of “The Four Walls of My Freedom”, posted on her Facebook wall her that her son, Nick, who is physically disabled, left this message on the Facebook page of The Sens Grill House in Ottawa, Canada: “Today I called to make a reservation for my 26th birthday celebration at the Sens House and was informed that as a wheelchair user, I have no access. I am a die-hard Sens fan and season ticket subscriber. In this day and age, such discrimination is completely unacceptable. I am very disappointed that wheelchair users were not considered when the Sens House was built and I count on the Sens organization to remedy this discrimination immediately. You leave me little choice but to hold my celebration at the Real Sports Bar in the market, an establishment owned by the Toronto Maple Leafs organization.” There is no elevator in the building.