Question Time: Accessibility

Question Time is a series in which we open up the floor to you, commenters. We invite you to share as you feel comfortable.

What does accessibility mean to you? That is, how do you define it and what does it mean in your life?

By 2 March, 2010.    accessibility, Question Time   



11 Comments

  1. For me, in many ways the idea of “accessibility” is a lot like the idea of “safe space.” Someone asked me the other day what it means to be in a “safe space.” I told them that, for me, the concept of safe space isn’t necessarily a place where people understand me or are even necessarily friendly to me. A safe space is a place where I’m accommodated, by which I mean I’m in a place where I feel empowered to stand up for myself as a full and equal human being and assert who I am and what I need.

    To describe what I meant, I made the analogy of being on a playground full of bullies who are hitting you: for me, an accessible place is a place where I’m empowered to do something about it, not necessarily a place where things like this don’t happen.

    In this way, I feel, accessibility or safety is more than just accommodations or opinions which make it easier to be in society but an overarching, holistic attitude which fosters empowerment.

  2. Right now I have a very concrete example of a LACK of accessibility. When I’m more relaxed, I can probably think beyond that.

    As my university is poor and cobbled together over 98 years, different buildings, different classrooms have different types of desks. In one of my classes, I don’t take notes (probably should, but the ppts are all online) so I flip the desk up and out of my way and sit comfortably for an hour and 25 minutes.

    Most of the desks are about half the width of the chair. But the ones in my art class (art history, we don’t need room for our drawings) are about the same if not wider than the chair. It is damn uncomfortable, it feels claustrophobic.

    Most classes have a table and a loose chair or two – I sat at one by myself last Spring semester because the pain was too much for me too sit at a desk and take notes. (Also, because it was winter, I needed the windows for air.)

    My art classroom has no table. No chair with a disability services sticker on it. There are loose chairs, but I can’t take notes that way for an hour and 25 minutes. (Trying to keep everything in working order, don’t need to wrench my back!)

    So what am I to do? According to the professor, look at the images (not the notes) online and keep up with the book. I hate that, I want to be in class. I’ve called disability, let’s see what happens.

    Accessibility = comfort to me. Can I sit here comfortably and do school work? What bugs me are the chairs in Dr Ego’s waiting room. Stiff backed, uncomfortable. And long waiting times, for pregnant women and women in pain, like me. Once I went and laid in the truck until my mom called me.

    I am in pain right now, so that’s what it is to me.

    Another thing about accessibility. An elevator is out in a building with 3 floors on campus. I have class on the 1st floor, no problem. Except I’ve needed to print things and the computer lab’s on the second floor. Well, I followed the instructions and walked to the next building, took the elevator, and walked back across. I need the elevator to save energy – walking the length of the building next door twice does not help me!

  3. Accessibility issues have forced me to be more demanding, more comfortable with asking for things.

    Take the waiting room – “I can’t sit, it hurts too much… something something?” “Just wait.” They never did help, and I flopped on the exam table/thing. Mom was right, they won’t do jack. But I asked.

    A big thing is my messed up internal thermometer. I have a fan (I think it’s broken probably from abuse in the backpack le sigh) and I asked professors every semester and none objected. I do remember one having to adjust a bit – speak louder – but he never said no.

    I create my own accessibility. Since they won’t do the reasonable thing and put the thermostat at 50 F in January when it’s snowing (come on, you can wear 5 coats!), I carry shorts and a hair clip in my backpack. I change before and after class, because it is cold outside. Usually this means I can breathe a bit, though today it wasn’t enough and I was so sick and overheated I didn’t change back and walked to therapy in shorts, flipflops, and a jacket, freezing my leg. I knew it would be hot there, and changing in a bathroom stall is so fun.

    Technology helps so much with accessibility – I can’t imagine how college students did it 20-30 years ago, and I don’t think people like me did it at all back then. The internet is a godsend – I can e-mail profs, they can put class notes online… Then there’s taking online courses! Two of my classes last semester, I basically did everything online for the last 2 months.

  4. Alright, I am the typo queen.

    “Freezing my leg” – “freezing my legs off” hyperbole. Brr!

    “too sit at a desk” = “to”

    D’oh.

    Beyond that, any confusion is all me and my ramblings.

  5. It means not having to have worries over and above what anyone else would worry about when doing stuff like travelling or going to events. Not having to waste my spoons on asking for adaptations to be made, because they’re already there, or someone suggests it anyway. Stuff like that…

  6. I used to think of accessibility primarily in the traditional sense: wheelchair access and of course accessibility to the blind (because I am myself blind). I am only beginning to conceptualize accessibility in a broader light, weighing in stuff like snesory friendliness. I still find it hard to conceptualize accessibility in ways that I don’t encounter personally though.

  7. I first associate accessibility with accommodations, such as elevators, specially shaped door handles, electronic opening doors, wide bathroom stalls with grab bars, and ramps, for people who use wheelchairs or who have mobility impairments.

    Of course, accessibility isn’t just to create access for people with mobility impairments. When I think more generally about accessibility, I think that it represents an environment where people can do what they want and need to do with as little hindrance or difficulty as possible. Accessibility means an environment where people don’t have to struggle to accomplish their everyday tasks, where extra help is available if needed.

    It’s hard for me too to expand my idea of accessibility beyond accessibility for people with disabilities or conditions that I am familiar with.

  8. Computer equipment allows me to access all my college work as well as communicate with people, don’t know what I’d do without it! I’ve devlopped some pretty advanced mental mapping skills (I’m blind) and can learn routes in new places in pretty short times but I have to follow certain routes and I have very specific ways of navigating which would be no problem at all if people didn’t try to ‘help’ me without even asking. What I mean is the people who see you stood on the tactile paving next to a road crossing, obviously waiting to cross, and holding a white cane and who take it upon themselves to grab your arm and try and help you across the road without bothering to ask if you actually need that help, this can often happen so quickly that there’s much I can do about it short of wrenching my arm away and potentially causing an arguement, but if I do let them help me, just to keep the peace, then I can often end up disorientated and steered off my usual route. I don’t mind if someone asks me if I need help then leaves me alone when I say no thanks but unasked for and unwanted help can be a real bar to accessibility. Otherwise, it would help if the elevator in our building wasn’t miles away from the entrance leading to no way of getting to class without using a considerable amount of spoons by either climbing lots of steps or walking a long distance to the elevator. Also, I wish my college would cut some of the overhanging trees back as they are a real hazard when walking around, these are only small things to many people but they do make a real difference. Also, I wish my college would install automatic doors rather than having to ring a bell and wait (sometimes for quite a while) for someone to come and let you in through the only accessible door, I have no idea why most of our accessible entrances are either hidden away or kept locked, it really does make anyone wanting to use them feel like second class citizens.

  9. I think accessibility is actually listening to people and trying to learn about them instead of making up rules for what people do or what people’s behavior means. This isn’t just good for people with communication disorders, it’s good for everyone.

  10. To me, it means realizing that things that are optional for a lot of people aren’t so for me.

  11. On this topic Dave Hingsburger was especially well-spoken.

    Accessibility means anonymity. It reduces the need for compassion, understanding, special consideration, to Nil. It allows me to slip in unnoticed and set up quietly. This doesn’t mean it masks my disability, it just makes it mean something very different.

    From “12 Steps? Me, I’d Rather Sit”