Today I was at a restaurant that had one step to enter. This normally isn’t an issue for me, however the step was a considerable height, high enough where I needed someone to help lift me under the armpits in order to get in the door.
In my opinion, one step is more infuriating than a full staircase. Although I don’t like that older buildings do not have to abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act and retrofit in order to accommodate people with disabilities, I am a reasonable person. I understand that a building that is old cannot put in an elevator or even a steep ramp. The ADA is meant to provide accommodations within reason. It still frustrates me, but I get that old buildings cannot be made accessible, unless someone invents an elaborate pulley system. That’s a topic for another day.
But one step? Come on. Most buildings that have one step to enter could easily put in a ramp, or even keep a portable ramp as a short-term solution. One step is infuriating. Why not make it level with the street? Why not have a ramp to begin with instead of a step? It isn’t impossible to reconfigure the step into a ramp, and it can be done without ruining the aesthetics of the property.
Instead, the step becomes a barrier. I am lucky that I can still go up a step, even with help. I don’t know how much longer that will be the case though. One step might as well be a giant brick wall to people who are in wheelchairs or scooters. The step basically tells these people that they aren’t welcome, or shows that the owner doesn’t care enough to make their establishment accessible for everyone. It isn’t too much of an exaggeration to call it a form of discrimination. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize this.
On one hand, we live in a society that is more accepting and “equal” than ever before. A lot has changed in the last few years. On the other hand, when the issues facing people with disabilities come to the forefront, people don’t realize that there is still a long way to go. The challenges that stem from a society built for the able-bodied aren’t insurmountable, but they add frustrations that are completely unnecessary, and often insulting. A single step as a barricade to enter a restaurant is just that – insulting.
This isn’t an indictment on everyone in society, because people do care when they are made aware of it. When I had to exit my classroom building last year through the trash room because the facilities department blocked off the only accessible exit in order to remove snow, that angered a lot of my classmates, mainly because they never had to think in these terms before. I used to be the same way, so I can’t rant too hard without turning into a hypocrite. When I was younger and wasn’t disabled, I never thought about these types of challenges. I never thought twice about walking up a step to enter a restaurant. It’s just not something that is ingrained in the minds of the general public.
Now that I’m on the other side of ability, this is all I think about. I am not a natural-born squeaky wheel, but I guess it’s time to put on my advocacy hat.