How accessible is accessible enough?


The public pool in my city doesn’t have a visible pool lift to accommodate wheelchair users. Apparently you have to call in advance to arrange that the lift be brought (from wherever it is) to the pool that day. I find myself wondering if this is accessible enough or not.

Equal access is a tricky thing. Is it equal access if you have to jump through a hoop in order to gain access? Ideally, equal access means that I should be able to spontaneously access something, without planning, any time I want to. That’s how it is for able-bodied people after all. If an able-bodied person wanted to go swimming at the public pool RIGHT NOW, they could. However, if I wanted to go swimming RIGHT NOW, I couldn’t. I’d have to call first and make sure they got the pool lift there in time.

This same scenario pops up all over the place. Accessible taxis often have to be scheduled in advance. Airport shuttles, same thing. Want accessible concert tickets? Sorry, you can’t buy those online, you have to call the box office.

Is it acceptable to have to wait or go through other avenues to secure accessibility? If you’re willing to surrender spontaneity, then yes. But who wants to do that?

An argument could be made that it costs too much to provide citywide access to pools and therefore since there’s not a huge demand for it, the scheduling solution works best.

However, I have a problem with assuming that there’s not a huge demand for something that disabled people might use. This is like a store owner who says, “I don’t have a lot of disabled customers, why should I put in a ramp?” when his store is up a flight of stairs. Of course the store owner doesn’t see a lot of disabled customers — they can’t get in the store!

Obviously, having immediate access to accessible tools like a pool lift is an optimal situation. But secondary to its usefulness, these tools advertise to the general public that, “Hey, this place is accessible! Tell your friends and family!” Then perhaps more people show up and use the device. Otherwise the presumption is that there’s no lift, and no means of easily getting a wheelchair user into the pool, and therefore not accessible even though it might be (with a phone call).

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3 Responses to How accessible is accessible enough?

  1. Gord Wallen says:

    Dan – I did my fall tour of downtown Georgetown last Sunday. Not much is open but did some window shopping before the snow arrives. A coffee would have been nice but the only shop open had a single step. (one small step for may, one giant leap for Gord kind!) In the past I’ve gotten off my scooter and used my cane to enter the store. I’ve been too weak lately so I just drove by. If the shop would invest in a simple removeble ramp I could have gone in and sat by the fire place and enjoyed a brew. I think coffee businesses rely on every cup sold to stay in business. I know would be a regular customer if I could get in because there is no other shop within walking distance. Anyway I arrived home without a cafine fix and my wife had to listen to my rant again.

    I just had a brain fart – I think I will approach the local BIA (business improvement area) that looks after the downtown area and see if they want to invest in a ramp that can be borrowed by some of the businesses. It not direct access but better than nothing. I’ll let you know how I make out!


  2. Dan says:

    Thanks Gord! I actually had a guy say that to me out in Hawaii when I asked why he didn’t just buy a portable ramp for his restaurant…lol

  3. Gord Wallen says:

    Good one Dan! I love the comment about not getting disabled customers.

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