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Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Screwed up World of ADA Accommodations

I am in Cortland, New York and staying at a Ramada Inn. This motel has the strangest mix of appropriate wheelchair access smashed against a gross lack of wheelchair access. I pulled in this afternoon and one entire side of the building is devoted to handicapped parking. There must be twenty plus wide spots available. This is a good sign. When I enter the building I see a nonconforming ramp--an obviously non conforming ramp as in not anywhere near code--that leads to the registration desk.  I am not a happy camper but I am relieved to learn my room does not require me to use this ramp. No big deal I tell myself, the room will be good; and the room is in fact nice. The bathroom has a good layout, grab bars in logical places. The towel rack is above the toilet near and the ceiling. No way I can reach a towel. I go to open the window and discover the room faces a game room/pool area. I can smell the chlorine through the window--a window that does not open. Given the fumes I am glad the window is bolted shut. Okay, I think I can adjust the thermostat and put the fan on. No such luck. The thermostat is placed high on a wall I cannot possibly get to.

Well, if I am going to smell chlorine all night let me at least go for a swim. The person at the registration desk assures me there is a lift--a lift that works no less.  I go to the pool area. I can see the lift. I just cannot get to it. There are two steps up to pool area. I go to the registration desk and an extended discussion takes place "Can't you walk up the steps?" Um no. No I cannot walk. More discussion takes place. If I exit the building and go to the furthest emergency exit at the rear of the building I can get to the pool area through the storage and maintenance rooms. But to do so a path would have to made. This is going to take some time I am told. I point out it is raining hard and that as I drove in I saw a pile of snow next to the emergency exit mentioned. The enthusiasm that was lukewarm to begin with has now been doused. No swimming for me. I return to my room and when I open my door I can hear kids yelling and screaming as they swim. Great. I will drown my sorrows with a beer. They have a bar--an inaccessible bar. Can I get just a beer for my room I ask. No they cannot let me leave the bar area with an open container. I point out I am not technically in the bar area. This does not sway the bar tender. Golly, is it any wonder I do not exactly feel equal to the bipedal people hordes that surround me. Really, 23 years post ADA and this is what passes for reasonable accommodations? What a joke but sadly I am not laughing.


Melanie Suzanne Gerber said...

I'm sorry Bill. Makes no sense! When my daughter was a toddler, I had my home babyproofed. The person doing the work said to put yourself at the same height as your toddler so you know what needs to be babyproofed. Maybe the folks who make the hotel wheelchair accessible should sit in a wheelchair so they understand what is needed to make the hotel wheelchair accessible.

Stephen said...

Bill, You could write variations of this same experience over and over. Lately, that's what you've been doing. I understand your frustrations fully, after all, we drive in the same lane.

As an avid reader of your blog, and as someone who greatly respects and admires your intellectual heft, I would like to see you develop your vision for improving (or scrapping) the ADA. Continuing to rail against the "bipedal hordes" -- a tag that I find hyperbolic -- does not point the direction forward. For all of your frustrations and venting, and suggestions that there has been little change in the pervasive negative attitudes toward the disabled, I sense that you have a vision of how this *can* change, fully aware that real progress -- the mountaintop, if you will -- will take decades to ascend.

I'd like to hear you lay out this positive vision. Nothing Pollyannish, that's not in your DNA. Pointing out the fuck-ups isn't a remedy for fixing them. If you're convinced that there's no possibility of improving our lot because the bipedals will simply never get it, if societal attitudes is a settled matter, then it's hard to find fault with the Christina Symanskis of the world who prefer to opt out.

P.S. I could put the same onus on myself.

william Peace said...

Stephen, Your comment made me realize why this post utterly failed to reunite. It is pointless. It is yet another description of ordinary ADA violations. I could stay in downtown Cortland, NY or any other small town in America and make the same observation. Thanks, such entries will cease as of today. Two points though: I haven't found an effective way to get corporations to change r.e. the ADA. Letters, emails, phone conversations, shaming, the law, all fail. Second, I use "bipedal hordes" to be over the top. I want people, the casual reader in particular, to stop and think. I have abandoned other terms based on comments such as yours as counter productive. Inspiration porn for example I no longer use. Inspiration I take to task but no longer use word porn. So if you do not like bipedal hordes and do not want me to use it convince me. Finally, as always thanks for the comment.

Glee said...

ah dear, yes been there and done that. Your ADA is just as useless, it seems, as our DDA here in Australia.

I always think it strange that the ablebugs (as my Siri misheard Ablebods) seem to design stuff like towels and aircon too high cos we must have a carer and therefore compltely helpless and then in the next breath want us to walk up a couple of steps. Or we are either invisible or stared at.

I think there are the two extremes of thought/ideas/beliefs/myths about us crips. And not much rational thought in between. It appears to be a complete vacuum devoid of any thought or consideration.

I find it hard to think of a way to help the ablebugs fill their vacuum. It is a terrible terrible disability that they have. I dare say that there has not been much research done on it. Let alone work on a cure. :(

Unknown said...

ADA would be great if:
corporations believed in the value of people who have disabilities; corporations and architects actually thought about it when designing facilities; there were a real way to fight back when violations occur. Currently the DOJ has moved to a mediation process that frees them from having to spend time and money on prosecutions. From experience these are rather worthless. There are no teeth in the ADA.

Moose said...

I haven't done much travel since becoming disabled, but my limited experience is that the nicer the h/motel, the more handwaving it does to the ADA.

I stayed in a Hyatt that had a gloriously huge bathroom, with tons of grab bars, a roll-in shower with optional bench, and everything in easy reach. The same room had a tight turn to get from the bathroom to the main room and beds so high I had to struggle to get in and out. The cap was the bank of elevators that didn't stay open long enough to reach them before the doors closed again.

I stayed at a "resort hotel" that had the accessible room carpeted, except for a wood entryway that was waxed to an inch of its life. When I wound up face down on the floor due to the wax, I got no apologies, just sneers, until I finally got them to "fix" it - their solution was to put down bathmats. The security people they sent up to take the report, before the mats were put down, nearly slipped and fell as well.

Much to my surprise, one chain that gets it right more often than others is the Red Roof Inn. I've stayed in about a dozen at this point. With the exception of one (Monroeville, PA), the reception area is easy to get to. The rooms range from juuust big enough to more than big enough, but everything, from towel racks, environment controls, even an ironing board (if it comes with one) is easily accessible. The only weird problem I have with them is that at many of the sites the accessible rooms with roll-in showers only have one king bed; all the rooms with two beds have a regular bathtub/shower combo (but with lots of grab bars). Very odd.

william Peace said...

Moose, I have travled extensively since last September--mostly up and down the East coast. I can make two generalizations based on my recent experiences. 1. High end hotel rooms present significant physical challenges. In particular beds that are so high a transfer is impossible. As I understand it, the ADA is being amended and bed height will be addressed as it is a wide spread problem. 2. Motels, low end but not the lowest rung, are routinely accessible. No worries about high beds and many motels get the details right. A thermostat one can reach , towels easily accessible, wide parking spots, and yes even accessible irons. I agree Red Roof Inn is uniformly good. Spotlessly clean, friendly staff, they allow pets, free wifi, etc. The only down side to Red Roof Inn is location--usually very close to the interstate and some can be noisy. Walking outside at hours of the night might not be a great idea depending on the motel.

Miz Kizzle said...

The high-end hostleries cater to guests who are well-off financially. They may believe that the disabled are all living on SSI and can't afford to stay there, so they make a token concession to accessibility so they don't get slapped with major fines and call it good to go.