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“But I Gotta Go NOW!”
November 29, 2011
It’s time to play another round of “Inaccessible Accessible Places.”
In the middle of trudging through Stress City last week, I reached the Island of Calm. Traveling bud Sandy and I headed to Chicago for a couple of days to see a show and do a little shopping. For our headquarters, we headed to our favorite place, Hotel 71. Located on East Wacker Drive just half a block or so west of Michigan Avenue, the boutique hotel is a place that gets it.
During our first stay there, I was just one week post-op from having a ruptured Achilles tendon repaired. When we got to the accessible room, I was surprised to find a bathtub. Most ADA (for Americans with Disabilities Act) rooms, as they’re called, have roll-in showers. After calling down to the desk to ask about that and to note that there wasn’t even a shower seat, the manager himself appeared at our door with an apology, a shower chair in one hand, and a shower bench in the other. I was able to transfer from my scooter to the chair on the outside of the tub and then to the bench in the tub. I’ve always been given a room with a shower after that, even without asking.
This time, it was an instant “ahhhhh” before I’d even gotten out of the van.
“Welcome,” said the valet. “Is this your first visit?”
“No,” said a familiar voice belonging to the hotel’s main doorman. “She’s been coming here for years.” Then, to me: “Welcome back! I see you got a new car.”
I was remembered, even though I hadn’t been there for something like one year because I’d not been well enough to travel much. It’s nice to be remembered.
At checkout, I mentioned that the beds were a bit high for an ADA room. Why do I suspect that will be taken care of before I return? They listen to you.
But the stress level returned on our way back home.
I live three or four hours from Chicago, depending on traffic. Monday was a heavy traffic day, plus Sandy and I went further into Chicago after checking out, so we were at about the 4-hour point since we’d been to the bathroom and were close to my house, but not there yet.
We stopped at one of those gas/convenience store/fast-food chain places. As you faced the buildings, the fast-food place was on the left side of the convenience store and set back so it began at the back of the convenience store.
The handicapped parking places were in front of the fast-food place. The curb cut? It was on the right-hand side of the front of the store. So to get to the curb cut, you had to travel first the depth and then the length of the convenience store.
OK. I have a scooter. It doesn’t matter how far I have to travel to reach a curb cut. But, speaking from past experience, there are those who can walk (usually with the help of a cane, crutches, or a walker), but are unable to step up onto the curb. What about them?
I get to the curb cut and up onto the sidewalk. Which is about two feet wide. Just enough for the scooter with a smidgen left over. The store had double doors. The left-hand door, which was the one that was the easiest to get through, was locked. That left the right-hand door, which was now behind me.
At least somebody held the door open for me to v-e-r-y c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y back through. I did have to make some adjustments. In doing so, I nearly went off the curb. Twice. Darned too-narrow sidewalk.
Finally! I’m inside the store! Then I’m inside the ladies room! And somebody is inside the one and only handicapped stall. I crossed my legs a bit tighter and did super-Kegel exercises while I waited.
After the skinny witch came out — with nary a limp — I scooted in.
Did I tell you the door opened IN rather than out?
I backed out of the stall, turned the scooter around, and backed in. At which point I found myself on one side of the door while the much-desired vitreous china fixture was on the other side of the door. Oh, so near…and oh-so-impossible to get to.
I maneuvered. I twisted and turned the scooter. I finally got it scrunched into a corner enough that the door could be closed.
At this point, the arrow on my continuous glucose monitor that indicates the rate of speed at which my blood glucose is rising was pointing straight up.
Finally, relief. And then the process of maneuvering the scooter into the corner again so I could escape the stall.
The polite thing to do when using a business’s facilities is to buy something to compensate it for your use. This time…I didn’t.
This time, I called the Department of Justice, which the ADA falls under, to ask if they put people with disabilities on their panels to let them know what really works, as opposed to what a bunch of engineers and architects believe works.
My call has not yet been returned. But I can be a nag when I want. I want. Oh, how I want.
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