Part of a Whole

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

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They Did Not Think Of Every Details

A brief discussion on Twitter prompted me to write this anecdote about wheelchair access. It is so pathetic one can only laugh. @ksuyin asked me about the reason for the wheelchair accessible aisle sign at Woolworths, as she couldn’t see the difference between that and other aisles. Then @lindsa made a sarcastic comment which had me laughing hard. Finally @lumbarius told of his experience at a Backpacker’s that "had wheelchair accessible toilet, but no access to preceding room".

I explained to @ksuyin that the sign probably showed that particular aisle was wider, with a lower counter, and easy access to the EFTPOS machine. I further explained that these aisles made sense when accessibility was retrofitted in older buildings, but that in newer building, or full renovations, there shouldn’t be any need for it, because all the aisles should be wheelchair friendly.

@lindsa said: "sure we have wheelchair access… provided it’s one of those fold-up ones… with nobody in it…"

This guy makes a lot of silly jokes, play on words and other inane tweets. He’s generally amusing :) But this particular tweet. OMG! I think it wins the funniest tweet of the month! It cracked me up.

But in response to @lumbarius, and to illustrate how his experience isn’t all that unusual, I must tell of my visit to a hotel in the Midwest of the United States in 2002.

I am used to travelling around. I stay in hotels regularly. I used to ask for the "wheelchair accessible room", but learned that I had to be more specific than that. Over the years, I learned I had to ask how wide was the door to the room. I also learned to ask about the width of the door to the bathroom, and how much clear floor space there was in said bathroom. I further learned to inquire about the distance between the bed and the bathroom door (you’d be amazed how often the bed is too close for the door to open fully!). I have a fairly detailed list of requirements I ask when I book hotels I’m not familiar with.

This time was no different than dozens of other times. The clerk answered all the questions graciously. He futher informed me that they’d recently undergone major renovations, with specific intent to improve accessibility for their guests with disabilities. They had made a point to follow all the recommendations of ADAAG. I was impressed he’d even heard of ADAAG, much less implemented the guidelines! So I booked the room.

Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the hotel after a longish flight followed by a shuttle ride in heavy traffic, that to get into the hotel, one had to take a flight of three steps!!!

They had done full renovations of the inside. They’d gone down to minute details such as the height of power outlegs, etc. But somehow, they forgot about people getting in the hotel in the first place!

The manager was really rather embarassed and called in a favour with another hotel. They put me up at the other hotel at their cost and I didn’t have to pay for my stay. It was a good way to handle the problem – rather than offer to carry me up. I was assured that a ramp would be put in post-haste, and I did believe it would happen.

Still, just goes to show that you can’t think of every details, even when the detail in question is "not so minor".

4 thoughts on “They Did Not Think Of Every Details

  1. Oopsy!

    I’m still very impressed with how the hotel handled it though. +1 in my books

  2. Yes, it is impressive how they handled it. Often, it is how a person handles a problem that really shows how good/bad they are. Problems happen, no worries, it’s how we go about fixing them that makes a world of difference.

  3. Reading this old post again. Seeing mention of @lindsa is bitter-sweet. He passed away a few months ago. He is missed.

  4. Your story underscores how useful it is to run a real-world test. Have someone get into a wheelchair and start from the kerb out front….and navigate to the front desk, to any relevant lift…down any relevant hall…to any relevant room: sleeping, dining, eating. It would have taken an hour…..

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