Will “Accessible” Ever Really Mean Accessible?

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My scooter is set on “turtle,” which is the slowest it goes, and I’m driving through the house very slowly and carefully. Usually, I fly through life on “rabbit,” but I don’t want to inadvertently run over G. Gordon Kitty, a 10-week-old blue bicolor Ragdoll kitten.

Jan and G. Gordon Kitty

Jan and G. Gordon Kitty.

I didn’t mean to name a sweet, innocent kitten after the architect of Watergate and only mentioned it as a joke when my grandson asked what I was naming the kitten. He liked it, so G. Gordon it is. G. Gordon is first cat I’ve had in my nearly 64 years of life that came from a cattery and not from a shelter or the streets. I’d wanted a Ragdoll for years, and it was time.

My first surprise? The breeder’s house was accessible. I rolled right in! I can’t visit most people in their homes because of steps. The only friends I’ve visited — and stayed a couple of days with — are Chuck and Jan, but they live too far away to visit often. And their house does have steps, but Chuck cobbled together some wood and made a temporary ramp when we visited last December.

It’s been an interesting couple of months in the accessibility realm. (For those of you who are unaware, I have a below-the-knee amputation stemming from a bone infection acquired during surgery for a ruptured Achilles tendon.)

My first frustration was at the hotel my traveling bud and I stayed in at the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) meeting in early August. (She’s a CDE.) We stay in this brand often and have never had a problem, so I don’t know what was going on with this one.

The hotel’s idea of a “roll-in shower” was to put a little dam of sorts between the shower and the rest of the room so the water wouldn’t flood the whole bathroom. Most places just slope the floor toward the drain. I have no idea how that little dam made a “roll-in” shower: My scooter certainly wouldn’t roll over it.

Now, if my scooter was on the rest-of-the-bathroom side of the damn dam, the grab bar was too far over to reach and provide some stability while I transferred from my scooter to the (portable, flimsy) plastic shower seat. The shower seat was too small (and, as previously noted, flimsy) to provide any kind of handhold. It’s already been noted that the scooter couldn’t cross the dam.

And that left me with…bird baths. You know; the kind where you stand (or sit, in my case) in front of the sink and wash up. And, by the way, the sink wasn’t all that easy to access, either. Brushing my teeth was a real hassle.

At least the toilet was usable. Which is more than I can say for public bathrooms I’ve tried to use lately.

The trip to get G. Gordon was three hours. One way. And there was another hour or so to meet the breeder and the kitten, do a question-and-answer session, and that sort of thing. I don’t know about you, but I can’t go for seven or so hours without “going.”

On the way up, we stopped at a place for lunch I was familiar with, so no problem there. On the way back was a different matter.

As we neared home, which was about an hour away, we decided to multitask by stopping at a grocery store for dinner ingredients and a bit of “relief.” No relief for me: Whoever designed the stall apparently believed that putting grab bars in a regular-sized stall was sufficient to make it “accessible.” Knowing ahead of time that I couldn’t frog-leap over the handlebars to get to the object of my desires, I backed in. But I didn’t have room to turn my scooter seat around.

“Your accessible bathroom isn’t accessible for me,” I told the manager on my way out, “but don’t worry: We put the groceries we’d already chosen back on the shelves.”

The latest incident came when a group of us went to a local hotel for a luncheon. Its ladies rooms had the same configuration as the one at the grocery store: grab bars in a regular-sized stall.

I called the hotel manager, whom I’ve known for years, and suggested he do something about that during the next hotel renovation.

“We do have a wheelchair you could use the next time,” he said.

“Bill,” I responded, “I’ve never used a wheelchair and have no idea how to get in and out of one.”

Admittedly, I haven’t read the regulations lately, but I believe that type of stall is legal — but only as a secondary stall to a larger one.

Next, I’ll have to tell him that merely painting some of the lines on the parking lot blue instead of yellow does not mean those spaces are accessible: You need aisles between the spaces so people can actually get in and out of their vehicles.

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