Thinking About What Accessibility Truly Means

I consider myself on the low end of accessibility because of everything I know I’m able to accomplish and have accomplished. Most of it with some help but a lot of it is just me figuring it out and using my strength and ingenuity. The larger part of it all is patience.

Although not everything is truly accessible by either ADA standards or just measured against me or someone more disabled being capable of independently doing it, that doesn’t mean it’s wholly impossible. But that implies time, effort and willingness.

At my university (Michigan Tech), there are a lot of things on campus that make it inaccessible by both measures (ADA compliance and general standards). I encountered this and thought of this when I went to go to a class and couldn’t get there because an elevator was down.

There is a building that is near completely inaccessible except that it’s connected to another building and between them is an elevator. Technically this makes that building accessible. However, it is very inconvenient. Which is my point here being that accessibility is also largely a matter of convenience.

These buildings have 6 floors technically. The first floor for each building (connected) are separated by about 6 stairs, so I go in one building and take the elevator down a few steps to get to the first floor of the other building and that’s the only way to get to those floors. I also am about sure that the only bathrooms are in one building meaning that while I’m studying in one building I’d have to take the elevator down a few steps to get to the bathroom.

One day, while on my way to my favorite study room, the elevators were down. This also meant that my class on the 3rd floor of the building with the offset was completely off the table as for going. Knowing my campus, there actually is a way to get to this room still. I could go in the library and up to that second floor, over a bridge connecting to the building where I study and then to my room which is on the second floor. However, though this is technically accessible, it’s really not.

My point in case is that convenience is what makes good accessibility. I could technically get up a set of stairs as long as there’s a sturdy hand rail. But installing a sturdy handrail doesn’t make a building accessible!

There’s another point here which is that there’s a building with doors hard to open, but it’s connected to another one that has button on the door. Technically, again, this makes it ADA accessible but I really don’t think so because you have to walk through an entire building and up a slant and through some fire doors (which don’t have buttons).

This is most likely the case everywhere. And although I hate having expectations like this, because I believe it’s my duty to adapt, I also would like to see some very simple considerations (such as having connected building with floor 1 level with floor 1).

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