You can go through a whole week, maybe even a month, thinking that life is getting easier for people with disabilities. But then you come across some news items that jolt you off that cloud of delusion. Borrowing a page from Mr. Ripley, I present you with three recent news items and challenge you to believe them or not:
1. Ring the bell
The site of a November conference where scholars were discussing the intersection between health, humanities and disabilities, was … well … not so accessible. In order to get into the session, a Syracuse University visiting professor had to ring a bell.
In a blog post, Professor William Peace wrote that he hadn’t seen a sign directing people to “ring bell for access” – which he likened to “white only” signs – since the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed 23 years ago.
“[Before ADA], I rang many such bells for access to buildings. Half the time no one answered the bell. The other times after an extended wait someone would arrive to open the door. In short, I quickly learned ‘Ring bell for access’ really meant there is no desire or commitment to wheelchair access,” Peace wrote.
I’ve been to Syracuse, N.Y., and specifically to the SU campus. Ringing a bell to get inside is just part of a big access problem in that hilly, snowy and generally tough town to negotiate for anyone in a manual chair.
2. Ring for a cab
Kansas City resident Tankisha Henderson was visiting Dallas, Texas, and on a Sunday night decided to have dinner at the plush downtown Omni Hotel. After dinner, she wanted to take a wheelchair accessible taxi back to her hotel in a Dallas suburb. But cab after cab passed her by with no accessible cab in sight.
Henderson had to wait 15 hours. As in, she wasn’t picked up until Monday morning.
“I’ve had to wait for cabs in many different cities, but this is the first one I’ve been to where it’s like, ‘We can’t come at all’,” Henderson told WFAA – News Channel 8 in Dallas.
For those 15 hours she sat in the hotel lobby anxiously waiting and hoping a cab would arrive. But even that was a struggle. “They’re saying, ‘We can’t allow you to stay here in the hotel.’ I’m like, ‘What do you want me to do? It’s the middle of the night. It’s cold. I’m not even from here. I don’t even know where I’m at’, ” she told the TV station. “I was causing no problems,” Henderson said. “Why would you not try to accommodate me?” Hotel staff eventually let her stay, according to reports.
The 13 taxi companies that operate in Dallas are not required to have a set amount of special vehicles that can transport the disabled, the city’s transportation regulation manager told the TV station.
Why, I wonder, didn’t the reporter ask the cab companies and the Dallas official if they thought a 15-hour wait is reasonable? Imagine the hoopla and likely lawsuit if a non-wheeler guest at the Omni had to wait 15 hours for a cab.
3. Hide the ambulance
Here’s an example of a homeowners association that apparently hasn’t heard of anti-discrimination laws for people with disabilities.
Seems that a family in Las Vegas bought an ambulance to take their disabled son to medical appointments. The special vehicle is necessary because the son has to lie down while being transported.
The homeowners association, citing a rule that bans the parking of commercial vehicles in driveways, ruled that the family could not park the ambulance in their driveway.
The family filed a disability discrimination complaint with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. And ruling that “homeowners associations must grant reasonable accommodations that enable residents to meet the needs of family members with disabilities,” HUD said the homeowners association must pay the family $65,000. The association and management company must also revise its parking policy, send staff to fair housing training and prominently feature the statement “We are a fair housing provider” on the official letterhead.
How nice that justice finally prevailed at least in that case.