Why weren’t they thinking about inclusion?

Recently our local newspaper had an article about a professor at LSU and the innovative program she leads. She has people work with the professed wishes of children to create playgrounds as part of their study in landscape architecture. Sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it?

The article was accompanied by photos of a playground this group designed. I saw colorful play equipment surrounded by a mulch-like medium which was contained by some kind of curb. In one photo the curb had a ramp going over it. Aha! A nod to inclusion and accessibility.

What else about the playground was accessible? Sadly, there was nothing as far as I could see. The medium used to protect children from falling onto a hard surface would not provide a stable surface for wheelchairs; they would sink into it very quickly and the children using those wheelchairs would need help to be pulled out. The play equipment was not accessible; only children who did not use wheelchairs would be able to use it.

This saddens me. Here is a group of creative people working with creative children to design a functional and fun area for kids to play. They are starting at the very beginning, with a blank page and good ideas. This is the perfect time to build in accessibility and inclusion and yet it appears that neither accessibility nor inclusion was properly considered. More and more children born with disabilities are surviving infancy and growing to an age where playgrounds matter to them. However, most playgrounds can be used only by children without disabilities.

If I made the rules one of my biggest rules would be: when designing a playground make it as inclusive and accessible as humanly possible. Do you want to be the one to tell a child he or she can’t play on the playground you designed? There is no reason not to design inclusively. In fact I would broaden that rule to: when designing anything make it as inclusive and accessible as humanly possible.

Posted in disability accessibility

Fighting Back Part Two: Winning

I had my day in court.  Well, at least I went to court for a status conference with the assistant district attorney, the man I’d had cited for refusing me and my dog entry into his restaurant and his attorney. 

Over the previous months the assistant district attorney and I had had conversations about what I wanted to achieve through the legal process.  I emphasized that I was not trying to be vindictive and did not want the court to take action that was so punitive that the man and his family would suffer: no jail time, no maximum fines.  Instead, I wanted to make sure the man learned his lesson and understood what the law said about service dogs being allowed in public places.  Perhaps, I suggested, he could perform community service with people who have disabilities or with dogs. 

A friend accompanied me to court.  We waited in the hallway until we were allowed into the courtroom and during that time the man’s attorney approached me.  He introduced himself and assured me the man was truly sorry for his ignorance and his conduct.  He presented me with a copy of a letter of apology (copies were also available for the assistant district attorney and the judge) and told me the man is a good man, a family man. 

Once in court we waited while a number of people appeared before the judge, each to have a new court date scheduled.  Then there was a lull and the assistant district attorney ushered us back out into the hallway.  He and I broke away from the man and his attorney.  We came to the conclusion that with 18-hour work days seven days a week it was impossible for the man to perform community service.  Hey, I am a reasonable person.  Instead I requested that he donate money to the organization from which I received my two service dogs.  The man and his attorney quickly agreed.  He also informed me that new employee training now included information about service dogs and literature from the Department of Justice was on hand at the front of his restaurant in case there was ever a question.  Once again he apologized.  Case closed and there will be no trial. 

I consider this a win.  No, I did not receive money for damages.  No, he was not flogged in the town square.  However, he learned from the incident.  He learned he was wrong.  He learned about service dogs and their right to public access.  He learned that people who work with service dogs can be tough and formidable.  He learned we are not to be trifled with.  I doubt he will treat another person with a disability or with a service dog so dismissively again.

Posted in ADA, assistance dog, disability, service animals

No Captions at This Inn

TV Remote ControlWhat is it with hotels?  Why do so many have such a problem providing captioning on the TVs in their rooms?  A couple months ago I wrote about a hotel that only provided captioned television in the “handicapped” rooms.  Last week I stayed at another hotel without benefit of captions.                          

Shortly after checking inn I checked the TV and the remote; that previous bad experience along with several others has me trained.  Sure enough, there were no buttons marked CC on the remote.  I tried the menu button and quickly realized the remote was designed for DIRECTV, the provider of the programming at the hotel.  It appeared there was no way to make captions appear. 

We left to get dinner, and when we returned we asked the desk clerk about captions.  She replied, “I’m really new here and I don’t know anything about captions.”  We asked her if she could contact someone who might know something about captions.  She quickly tried two people but neither answered.  She shrugged.  Oh well.  That’s that. 

This is three kinds of failure: it is a failure of the hotel to provide its employees with appropriate training so they can do their jobs; it is a failure to provide customer service since we all know without question that modern American hotels provide television, thus we expect to be able to watch television; it is a failure to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Needless to say I filed yet another complaint with the Department of Justice.  Hotel industry, take note.   


Posted in ADA, Americans with Disabilities Act, captioning, deaf, disability, disability accessibility, good business, good customer service, hard of hearing, hearing loss, technology and accessibility