Part of a Whole

My name is Nicolas Steenhout.
I speak, train, and consult about inclusion, accessibility and disability.

Wasting 90 Minutes Waiting To Get In

Sometimes, using a wheelchair makes you waste a lot of time. Or rather, the systems that give wheelchair users access make us waste time. When a building hasn’t been designed with access in mind, and has to implement accessibility, somehow, things aren’t always ideal. In this situation, they are "not ideal" at the tune of 90 minutes spent waiting for the system to let you in.

I’ve recently been attending regular meetings in a government building. This building is fairly old. It was constructed at the end of the 1800’s and is considered a historic building. As such, there are many steps in front of the entrances, particularly at the main entrance.

To enter this building, wheelchair users have to go to the back of the building, use a phone to ring security, and wait for security to send an armed guard to unlock the door and escort you through the building to the security checkpoint. This process takes approximately 15 minutes. To leave, another guard has to escort you to the exit. It takes approximately 15 minutes again.

So for each time you go in and out of the building, you can count on wasting half an hour. By the end of the third block of meetings in a day, you’ve spent nearly an hour and a half waiting for security to let you in and out of the building. Surely there’s a better way?

Note that this is in no way a complaint against the guards themselves. They are doing a difficult job, in a busy environment. They have been nothing but pleasant, courteous and polite. It is not their fault that the system is failing.