Long ago (1988) I moved to Berkeley and started sending a monthly "newsletter" to my Boston friends. When I returned to Boston (1993), I continued the tradition for about five more years (or until I had kids). Looking back, I realize that I was actually blogging. Each newsletter contained anywhere from a few to several blog posts. Having been silent for the past decade or so, I've decided to resume these activities. Don't expect anything profound -- I tend to focus on what I find entertaining or amusing and perhaps sometimes informative. We shall see!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Thoughts on the ADA

Having spent six weeks on crutches, I have some thoughts on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the implementation thereof.

I recall when I first had kids and found myself wandering about with a stroller being grateful for wheelchair ramps. Ramps were less of an issue this time -- my top list of interesting things are:

  • Doors
  • Hotel rooms
  • Common Courtesy

Big heavy doors are a real problem. Automatic/handicap doors are a big win, but even within that class, there is some variability. For example, my orthopedist's office is in an office building with a multiple-door entrance. When you press the button, the first door opens and then the second door opens -- no airlock between the doors where you have to search for the second button. This setup gets an A. In contrast, my building at Harvard also has a two-door entrance, but the doors are not wired together so you have to push one button, go through the door, find the second button, press it, wait for the next door. Minor thing, but definitely annoying.

Amusingly enough though, once you get into my orthopedist's building, their office is on the second floor. OK, they have two elevators, no problem. However, imagine my surprise at getting to their office and discovering a big, heavy wooden door with no handicap button. Even more amusing though was my exit -- one elevator was broken and they were doing service on the second elevator in the middle of the day meaning that I was on the second floor on crutches with no working elevator and a bit of a spiral staircase. This setup did not get a good grade.

Hotel Rooms
Teagan and I went to Cleveland to watch the US Women play Germany (the US kicked butt 4-0) while I was on crutches. I called to request a handicap room so that I could shower without risking life and limb, and the hotel was gracious enough to accommodate. Now, I hate to whine, but who thought it was a good idea to locate the handicap rooms at the end of the building opposite the elevators? Seriously -- my room was the absolute farthest room from the elevator. Clearly, someone decided this was a good place to locate the handicap rooms, but for the life of me, I cannot fathom why one would do that.

Of course, they didn't do much better on the interior organization either. The good news is that the shower had a removable head so one had a bit more flexibility in the shower. However, the toilet, sink and waste paper basket were located in three distinct corners of a rather large bathroom -- so until you rearranged it, you couldn't actually put anything in the trash without getting up and moving around (requiring crutches and careful crutching use since both hopping and moving on crutches on potentially wet floors is lethal). A bit of better planning might have placed these things a bit closer together.

Common Courtesy
I must say that I was pleasantly surprised at how friendly and helpful people were (for the most part). People offered to grab my suitcase from the overheads on the plane -- something I could do on crutches, but was easier not to have to do. The more savvy folks would make it a point to open doors -- they didn't make a big deal about it, but would linger just a bit longer at a door than they might otherwise have and would open it. In some case, I noticed people seeing me coming and simply moving to open the door. (And those of you in my Harvard hallway who actually came out of your offices to periodically help with keys and door stops get a special thank you -- you know who you are!)

Then there were the (thankfully few) clueless. My absolute favorite happened in the checkout line for whole foods. Teagan and I were standing in line at the checkout with perhaps 6-8 items in our cart. I was next to unload onto the belt and there was a family behind me with a few items. The lane next to us opened and the checkout called, "I can take someone here." Just as I start to turn and move to that line, the family behind me in line, jumps in front and races to the cashier. Teagan and I cross over and I say to Teagan in a rather loud voice, "That's right, don't let the lady on crutches who was in front of you in line get there first." I don't think they heard me, but I was simply stunned into laughter at that one.

Now that I'm off crutches and barely limping, I do have a soft spot for anyone on crutches. If you want to help, open a door, offer to carry things, or just offer a sympathetic smile. If they're anything like me, they'll notice and be grateful.

- M


  1. The Whole Foods rudeness, unfortunately, seems to be standard supermarket behavior anytime a new line opens up---made worse, of course, when everyone is oblivious to the woman on crutches...

    The Whole Foods my parents shop at is set up bank-teller style, with a single line feeding all of the registers and a helpful person at the head of the line to direct people to the next free register. It makes me wonder why more supermarkets don't do this...

  2. I am guessing the handicap rooms in the hotel are at the end so they are near the stairs or some other way out of the building. In case of a fire, the elevators are shut off and the folks next to the outer part of the building get rescued first. Make sense?

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