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Accessibility, an Afterthought?
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Accessibility, an Afterthought?

Living in an Upper Midwest city, life is reasonably accessible for citizens of all abilities, even considering the fact that we live with several feet of snow on the ground for nearly 9 months out of the year! I work downtown in a large 5 story office building which was in need of some much needed renovations that were completed just this summer.

The building was renovated top to bottom – new floors, new ceilings, new paint, new fixtures – you name it, everything was new. Walls were knocked down and the employee parking lot was even repaved. All these glamorous renovations actually enticed a bank to move in on the first floor prompting the building managers to install an accessible entrance with automatic push button doors – but only to the front of the building, and only after the bank moved in several weeks after the renovation was completed, leaving no accessible access to the building for employees or customers using the back entrance.

It was not until several weeks after the renovation was completed that a push button to automatically open the door was installed in the back entrance of the building. It was only installed on ONE door, however, and there are double doors to enter the building. So imagine a person needing a hand with the door has access using the push button to get inside the first door but they are essentially denied access to fully enter the building because the second door does not have a button installed. It was not until this week – over 2 months after the renovation of the building was completed - that the company came back to install the automatic button for the 2nd door.

This got me thinking, is accessibility an afterthought? Something that companies only recognize a need for once employees or customers with various abilities are seen struggling to access the building? Is the need for accessibility only recognized when it is mandated by law? Or perhaps when someone actually brings the fact that a building is not accessible to the forefront of the property manager’s attention? Even though building accessibility has been part of ADA guidelines since the 1990s, it is still surprising to see how loosely the “accessibility” is actually practiced.

Imagine what our communities would look like if accessibility wasn’t an afterthought but rather a forethought! Something that designers, architects, property managers and companies build into the first stages of their plans, not something that is installed long after. The foundation of the word “accessibility” is ACCESS. Think about the value that creating greater access could bring. Creating ACCESS to public buildings and places of business means companies are opening their customer base to people of all abilities who have money to spend, ideas to contribute and who want to take advantage of the same opportunities and services as able bodied customers.

What is ACCESS like in your area? Feel free to share your experience in the comments.

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  1. Daniel Andrei Garcia
    Daniel Andrei Garcia
    Voted. 9 months of snow. Accessibility here in the Philippines is at a very, very, very low rate. The only establishments that have provisions for these are mostly buildings owned by the multinationals and big franchises. It's very tough to go out here.
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  2. Wheelzup
    Wheelzup
    Living in the lower Great Lakes area has it's problems as well. For the most part the land is flat yet many businesses build a hill that leads up to their entrances so they can make it pleasing to the eye. Some have remote doors while some have automatic doors. There's one hospital that has some major flaws despite it is where many wheelchair users go for rehab and see the specialists that their primary care physician would rather they see. The hospital has had a lot of major renovations over the last year or so but when it comes to the buttons to open doors you have to hunt for them. Some are square or round while others are rectangular and rather small. Some are located high and others are down within easy reach. I have an assistance dog and he gets frustrated when he does as I ask him to get the button. Sometimes the door opens the wrong direction and you need to move quickly to get out of the way. The biggest problem is in the restrooms, you go in and the lights are on but go into a stall to cath and the lights go out before you are finished. Sure motion sensors are to help save on utility bills but why can't they have one in a stall, after all most have just one stall that is accessible. It does get frustrating to say the least and being pitch black adds to ones disability. It's a hospital ask some of the patients what works, heck the baseball stadium is more accessible.
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