Sunday, March 27, 2011

Maybe I'm Being a Little Oversensitive, Here

Everybody's gone @ the Spanish steps, Rome, ItalyImage by Paolo Margari via Flickrbut I am getting tired--tired, I tell you--of showing up for social events and finding out that I can't get there from here.

Last night, the party was at a downtown bar with no handicap parking. None. Zip. Zero. Nada.

Mr. Simply had called ahead to see if we were going to have problems, and learned that the bar itself is laid out on three levels, separated by two flights of stairs, with "only" four steps each. I get tired of that "only" too, by the way, but that's another subject for another day. I'll just say that, for some of us, one step might as well be the Matterhorn and leave it at that. And let me add that the steps were really, really wide, and it would not appear to have been a problem to have included a ramp next to each flight in the original design, then I promise I'll move on. Except to say that when people say "only" in this context it makes me want to smack them upside the head.

Mr. Simply didn't think to ask about the parking, as parking has been mandated by Federal law for years and it never occurred to us that there would be any issue other than the usual one of there never being enough spaces to go around. (If 15% of us have disabilities, why aren't 15% of the spaces in any parking lot or garage designated handicapped parking? More, at medical facilities? Again, another subject for another day.) So imagine our surprise when we circled the block twice and found no handicap parking on the street, and entered the garage to find, again, no handicap parking. How is this possible?

Don't know what street access was like, other than the parking, as I came in to the party from the garage. But I can tell you that there was a long ramp from the garage to three back exits, one into each level of the bar. That's the good news. The bad news, which we got from the security guard in the garage when we asked for directions, is that the doors are sometimes locked. In which case, we were told, we would have had to leave the garage and go around the corner to get to the front door. At which point we would have been two levels below the party. My only alternative, did I need a scooter or chair to get around, would have been to go back out, around the corner, into the garage and down the ramp, and have someone meet me at the correct back door to let me in. This sort of thing pisses me off.

The party was not on the same level as the restrooms, either. If I'd had a wheelchair or scooter, I'd have had to leave the bar, take the ramp to the next level, re-enter the bar, then repeat the process to get back to my table--risking, of course, being locked out at each stage of the process.

I know that my temporarily able-bodied acquaintances will not always think of these things when they are planning activities that include me. (This begs the question whether the bar owners ever heard of the Americans With Disabilities Act.) Some are not close enough that I would necessarily share with them the ongoing saga of my slowly but inexorably deteriorating physical condition. I know this is not personal: The able-bodied simply take for granted their ability to get around. But I wasn't the only person there with physical challenges: I met a lady on the stair who, upon observing my cane, commented that she had just recently got off crutches. No telling how many there with invisible impairments. So you'd think that a mass of us would at least catch our hosts' attention, wouldn't you?

So maybe I'm being a little oversensitive here, but I allowed myself to have some hurt feelings for a moment, as I sat on the throne in the surprisingly accessible stall in this disappointingly inaccessible bar, feeling left out of things and close to tears as I contemplated the long haul back up eight--count 'em--eight steps to our table.

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