Monday, January 22, 2007

What Is Accessible After All?

A year ago we went to a party at a restaurant in Dallas. I went through the door in my Amigo scooter just fine, but then it was over. Steps down were the only way to get to the tables, and they were so close together my Amigo and I would not fit between them.

The staff was gracious as they directed me outside to the patio entrance. The patio was closed because it was a cold December evening, but the patio allowed me to get to the double doors leading to the dining room. Uh-oh, step up.

Luckily our party's table was the closest to the doors. Garry picked me up and carried me to the chair. The diners were all aware of my grand entrance, the food was delicious, and the staff remained attentive through the meal until I was lifted and escorted to the patio door.

Was that accessible? They certainly accommodated me. I was reminded of this outing when I read Donald Hayes' story in 360, the online disability magazine.

Hayes wanted to have his morning coffee with doughnuts from Dunkin' Donuts with a drive-up window. He could have gone to a near-by Dunkin' Donuts walk in if he didn't mind crossing busy snow-slick intersections in his power wheelchair.

Town by-laws restrict drive-up windows to motor vehicles, and Dunkin' Donuts said his wheelchair made him a pedestrian. Martin Ebel, general counsel for the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination offered a solution: Hayes could phone in his order and an employee would bring it out.

The restaurant is not accessible, but Donald Hayes would be accommodated.

The Dunkin' Donuts blog accepts comments, but I saw no mention of this story. The Obscure Store & Reading Room blog mentions the story and has many comments, pro and con.


mdmhvonpa said...

The world is a peculiar place. I go to a gym where there is a ramp to get in but if you were to bring a child to the 'child watch' room, you need to go up stairs. The pool, weights, massage parlor and tanning beds are on the same floor, but every thing else is on the second. You COULD go out to the rear of the building and enter through a set of doors (that look like and old main entrance) but that access is very far away from the handicap spots. Personally, I'm cool with that. It's accessible, just not convenient. People have to realize that situations will arise where access and convenience are not going to by synonymous.

Vicki said...

Before all of the restaurants updated to become accessible, they led me through the kitchen. I went through long corridors in the inner workings of a hotel. I got in, and the staff was always gracious.

There are also stories of non-accommodation. The worst one was when I had to sell my house in a bad market time - or put in an elevator.

There are also many stories where the sitter gets ahead in line or other preferential treatment. It all works out. We could write a book.

I couldn't find where Donald Hayes accepted the solution, but it sounded good to me.

Shirl said...

I've been looking for a blog written by a fellow MS-er - found you Vicki! At last, someone writing about sensible issues in a literate style.

I remember a discussion I once had with a professional working with the MS Society in UK, about the social amd clinical models of disability. The point (for me) is a clinical reason has resulted in my motor disability but society's structures lead to my social inabilities.

I'll be back!