Access, What Access?
Just because there’s “access” doesn’t mean it’s the correct way
I came across this GIF and I actually laughed and eyerolled at the same time.
GIF of a person pushing a wheelchair access button and the door opens to reveal a set of stairs.
But the sad thing is that this is pretty close to the truth in many situations.
Many places only comply with just enough accessibility to avoid ADA lawsuits, and when people with disabilities request more suitable and “equal” access, they’re dismissed.
“We gave you access, what more do you want?”
People with disabilities don’t want “more,” we want equal, quality, and qualified access.
What is Access?
Image of a hand reaching up over a doorway to read the Braille on a "Toilets" sign.
Access and accessibility is simply giving a person with a disability the opportunity to move around easily, get the same information, participate the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally effective manner and with ease.
Some examples of accessibility includes:
- Captioning of all video media
- Barrier-free parking, ramps, access doors and working elevators
- Alternate text for images and labels for internet screen readers
- Alternate media options - text transcripts, visual descriptions, large print, braille
- Listening devices, alternative communication, sign language interpreters
You get the idea, right? Clear and uncomplicated entry to the same areas as those without disabilities.
But what accessibility clearly is not are:
- Steep ramps
- Auto-generated captions (it’s gibberish half the time)
- Flat Braille (yes it’s a thing) or unreachable Braille
- Unqualified interpreters with minimal signing skills
- Unreadable Websites for screen readers, braille readers, low vision users, and other accessible technology.
If you’re interested in learning more about suitable accessibility, you can read about it in this great Amazon book.
People with disabilities encounter accessibility that’s shoddy, very minimal, or even broken equipment and ableist people who ignore or patronize our calls for equal access.
The quote I mentioned earlier “We gave you access, what more do you want?” is very condescending and dismissive, yet it happens often.
Some people with disabilities are forced to accept whatever access they receive because administration and “higher-ups” believed a certain accessible method was cheaper to use, rather than the client’s preferred mode.
Others are simply untrained, understaffed, or under-equipped to be able to provide access.
One such example that’s been highlighted in several news stories is the forced used of airplane wheelchairs and lack of help transferring on and off airplanes.
For those who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing, being forced to use pen and paper, or refusal to get a proper sign language interpreter has resulted in many lawsuits.
Sometimes for those with multiple disabilities, deaf-blindness for example, are told to pick one disability to receive access services for.
Shoddy service should never be offered or accepted by any company or agency, yet it happens.
As you’ve read from the above stories, getting refused from proper access has often resulted in the loss of dignity for many people with disabilities.
Access isn’t there to satisfy some written laws, it’s there to enable people with various disabilities to retain their mobility, communication their daily living and independence.
When people with disabilities speak up and demand equal access, they’re labeled as “angry,” “demanding,” or “spoiled.”
It’s a never-ending battle.
Help remove the ableist mindset and understand what people with disabilities require for their access, not what one thinks they need.