“But I Gotta Go NOW!”

It’s time to play another round of “Inaccessible Accessible Places.”


But first…

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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  • Kris

    I could very well have been that “skinny witch.” In addition to diabetes, my lower spine is partially fused. I’m fine standing up and fine sitting down, but the in between is hell because I can’t balance myself like normal folks. Those bars are completely necessary for me unless I want to end up flat on my face.

    I hate it when non-disabled people judge me based on the fact that they don’t have x-ray vision and assume that I’m lazy, but at least I can understand it. What I don’t understand is that attitude from someone who should, by this point, realize that not all disease and disability is blatantly visible.

  • Jan Chait

    You’re right, Kris. I shouldn’t make judgements based on sight. My apologies and thanks for pointing that out.


  • jim snell

    Man, Jan keeps having fun. This sounds like and episode of “nibbled to death by ducks”.

    Good luck. Your story is important as it indicates
    that the folks appproving these designs are the wrong folks and should be disabled folks.

    Same story, until you have really been disabled you really don’t have a clue what that means.

  • Barbara

    Very good story, and funny too! I am glad that Kris commented. For if she had not, I certainly would have. I have RA and it is not visible yet. If I am one of the “lucky” ones it won’t be. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t painful! I use the handicapped stall in the restroom also. It is sooo much easier on my knees and back. I get a lot of “looks” and sometimes even some sarcastic remarks from those who are obviously handicapped. I try my best to ignore them, but it is increasingly hard to do so. Thank you,Jan, for your apology! We do have pain, sometimes a very great deal of it!!


  • Linda

    Oh, how familiar! I don’t always have my power wheelchair with me and recently I had to wait for the accessible stall at a business. Out came a *young* skinny witch who worked for the establishment! I need to call them and let them know. Thanks!

  • Jan Chait

    LIMP, Barbara! LIMP when you come out of that stall! LOL

    Seriously, I can feel your pain. I have OA in my knees and walk bone-on-bone — leaning heavily on a walker — when I walk. I got a bone infection in a toe from a metal pin and lost part of my toe. Ten years later, I got a bone infection from a metal screw in my heel and lost part of my leg. After those two incidents, I’m unwilling to chance knee replacement surgery.


  • BarbN

    Some years ago I broke one ankle and sprained the other at the same time, so had to use a scooter. Was absolutely astonished that the orthopedist’s office did not have a handicapped rest rooom/stall available.

    Lately I have been trying to get an acoomodation at work, which would be an electirc door for our suite (we already have key card passes) that I could open myself instead of asking for help when I need to get to the bathroom (and back again). Can’t do-no one thinks the embarassment/hassle factor outwieghs the cost factor.

    And the handicapped access from the garage is a joke-there is a ramp that is too steep for a scoter and then not enogh space to line up the scooter with the access door-which is also manual, not electric. It’s impossible to use with a scooter even if yu have help.

  • Linda M.

    Oh, Jan, you crack me up! In a good way, though. So funny. You know if you could find some people to film these episodes you could create a whole new weekly show on TV. I can see it no—“How To Get Where You Need to Go.” It would be a hit for sure—funny but calling attention to all the problems people with disablities encounter out in the the real world. Bet it would get someone’s attention in the Dept. of Justice if you’d had someone filming this episode and presented it to them. Hey, you ready to be a movie star?

    Keep after the Dept. of Justice and report every incident like this. We all need to do that when we see a problem or someone else having a problem. There’s got to be a better way to design things for scooters, wheelchairs, walkers, etc. More and more people today are using these to get around.

    Jan, you are one classy lady. Glad you apologized to Kris. I know we can’t always see what is going on in a person’s body.

  • Ted

    Jan Just caught your blog about rest rooms. You are one class act. Your humor, your analysis, your honesty.

    Like Kris, I have a problem. Yes, it is irritating, when a “non-handicapped” individual uses the special stall. But, consider that this is an accommodation dictated by ADA. Retail facilities often have to make adjustments for these requirements by virtue of the physical space they are in.

    The adjustment I most often see in an older establishment is that two older stalls are used to make one ADA stall. That reduces the available stalls by one or more. We with disabilities are not the majority of the population in this world. There are many, many more non-handicapped individuals in this world. If the stall is empty, they should be permitted to use them. I’ve been in many smaller establishments that only have one stall in the Mens Room. We all have to wait at some time or other. Give them a break, please.

    Enjoyed your blog and the comments immensely. Keep writing them.

  • Jan Chait

    Ted, I have absolutely no problem with non-handicapped people using the handicapped stall — as long as all of the regular stalls are in use. Ladies rooms can have long lines during busy times and I’ve even been known to decline jumping ahead of people when the handicapped stall becomes available and others in the line offer to let me go ahead.

    What really annoys me is when all of the regular stalls are empty and the handicapped one has a couple of giggling adolescents in it texting each other or something. Yes, we are few, but we do exist and our choices are limited. It would be great if people were polite.


  • jim snell

    Jan as an old goat ( 60+) I believe you are correct and in this great fast digital 90 nanosecond interval age there seems to be an increasing bounty of thoughless and less introspective thinking of others and especially those disadvantaged and respecting that.

  • Cindy

    I am placing an advisement to Diabetics who wear insulin pumps.

    Wearing your insulin pump through the full body scanners at the airport security check in could damage you insulin pump!! I recently flew for the first time and was told to leave my pump on when going through the scanner. This action damaged the programming of my insulin pump and I soon began to feel ill after the flight. Not knowing there was an issue and being away from home I just dealt with feeling ill, I then went through the scanner again on y return trip. After returning home I progressively got worse and went to the hospital. There I was accused of administering insulin and deleting it from the pump, as a result they threatened to put me in the psych ward for trying to kill myself. After a long battle my pump was taken from me and tested. They found that its programing and calibration was messed up and I was placed in the ICU do to almost dyeing from insulin shock.

    I have been informed by the insulin pump manufacturer that the scanners and x-ray machines are known to cause problems.

    Please for your safety opt out of scanner or remove it and ask it be inspected without x-ray.