I'm a big fan of the Americans with Disabilities Act. But I also don't think it goes far enough. And when people say, oh, we don't need it, it's unnecessary government intervention, I want to use this post as an example of how it doesn't go nearly far enough.
I've never used a wheelchair on a daily basis. I've spent time in them in hospitals, but I've never had to move one myself. * My disabilities are invisible, for the most part. But I've become sensitive to how the ADA's application meets only the letter of the law, and not the spirit, and it was never more pronounced to me than this weekend, while I was out enjoying a day with my friends.
Most people think that people in wheelchairs get pushed around by someone else. That's not entirely true. With car adaptations, different types of wheelchairs, and other innovations, people who rely on a wheelchair for mobility can get around by themselves--if the world decides to help them out.
This weekend, I went to several places: a Mexican restaurant, a grocery store, a bookstore, and a movie theater. Only one of these places would've allowed someone who was in a wheelchair, or used a walker or crutches, easy access to the building.
The Mexican restaurant had no handicapped button for the entrance, and there are two doors. The first one opens to a vestibule that has stools in it, and usually people waiting, and it's sort of narrow. You then have to open another set of doors to get into the restaurant, proper. And then you can get a seat, because they have wheelchair accessible tables. But if you're a person trying to get around without help, you're sort of stuck.
The grocery store had sliding doors. Win.
The bookstore is a local Barnes and Noble, and this is where I really noticed the problem. Barnes and Nobles have two sets of doors, in all their buildings, so they can sell discount books in the entryway. But the doors aren't power doors. So the person would have to pull open the door with one hand, somehow keep it propped open enough to wheel through, then open the second door, wheel through, all without, you know, hitting themselves, and assuming this can even be done. I'm guessing it can be, but it's probably difficult.
The trip to the bookstore actually illustrated the problem I"m writing about here. There was a woman pushing another woman in a wheelchair. The woman pushing would've had to step in front of the chair, open the door, prop it open while someone else pushed the woman and her chair through, then prop open the next door and do the same thing. Instead, I held open the first door, and someone else held open the second.
But think about this. This is madness. Why have a curb cut in the sidewalk leading up to the store, why have handicapped parking spaces, if there's no easy way for a handicapped person to enter without help?
And then I decided to start taking photos.
The next stop was the movie theater. This is where it got ridiculous.
This is the handicapped entrance, tucked off to the side. So at least there is one.
But then this is the way into the theater from that entrance:
Do you see a problem here?
When I started to think about it, it just got insane. We have curb cuts, but we don't have doors that allow easy access for wheelchair/walker/crutches users. What madness is this?!
We need to start expanding the idea of disability. People who are disabled are also independent--or would like to be. But on my Saturday wanderings, my day would've been a lot harder if I'd been mobility-impaired. Now, I guess, if I was in a wheelchair, I'd be used to it, but that doesn't mean I'd like it.
And of course there's all the other things. Stores having counters that are level so someone in a wheelchair can see over. Having accessible tables at restaurants (although I've seen this on the rise). The list goes on.
The next time you're out, look around. How easy would life be if suddenly you couldn't walk? If you broke your leg or something? I'm betting your life would get a lot harder. And it doesn't have to be that way.
We don't need these double entry doors. Put power doors on your entrances, if you're going to do that. Make it easy to find handicapped accessible entrances, and then don't block them!
There is so much more work that needs to be done to give access to all people. So, yes, we need the ADA. We need it to be stronger, if anything--not done away with.
*I have moved the chair, briefly, in hospitals. But not for long--they usually don't let you do that.