I rarely get to see myself in the mirror, at least in public bathrooms. I find this more a blessing than not, even though I regularly run the risk of showing up to an appointment in need of a little attention. Being a wheelchair driver means I am usually the shortest adult in the room. It also leaves me eye level with a lot of crotches and assholes. From that perspective, it is empowering to know that if at any point you find yourself looking at an asshole, MOVE.
Even though we have the ADA, laws and periodic media attention on the forgotten minority about access, very few architects, designers, contractors and building inspectors consult the population for whom they are constructing the access.
This lack of real life feedback leaves the end user, like me, on a never-ending ride of disappointment.
The mirror is too high.
The door opens the wrong way.
I can’t close the door to the accessible stall because once I wheel into the stall, the door opens in (instead of opening out). So now I am in the way of the door closing (go anyway and leave the door open? That will teach them!).
Or sometimes the sink is too high; the tub is too low.
Here’s my favorite! Roll into the shower! Doesn’t everyone take a shower wearing their clothes?
Me “rolling” into a shower is the equivalent of you taking a shower already wearing the outfit you plan to wear that day. My wheelchair would get wet if I rolled into the shower.
Therefore, I have never taken a shower in my wheelchair, and I have never met another wheelchair driver that does. Yet the world is full of proud hotel managers happy to offer me their only type of accessible room, “It has a roll-in shower!”
It is a fantasy of mine that I will meet the one wheelchair driver who rolls into the shower, in their wheelchair and kills two birds with one stone by cleaning themselves and the chair at the same time.
Perhaps it has some high-tech Tesla-like feature that immediately air dries the chair with infrared red heat – I mean solar. My fantasy sparkles with high tech wheelchairness in full force that leaves both driver and equipment spotless and dry.
I am a Virgo and borderline obsessive-compulsive about cleanliness, so this would work for me.
Now that I think about it there is a vast market for this technology. You could drive through the car wash, leave your sunroof open and get a shower, interior shampoo and exterior wash all simultaneously. Awesome!
As you read this, you must be thinking what an absurd idea. How can she say that?
And yet it all stems from my never-ending experience of the absurd. Companies spend billions of dollars on building access to nothing! You have to consult the population you serve! PLEASE call me.
Before you start construction, I will be happy to wheel-through all your ideas, and you can observe first hand all the ways they don’t work or aren't functional.
I'll demonstrate to you exactly how your plan is screaming, "Hey SPECIAL needs people wheel yourselves a quarter-mile around the building, down the alley and up the mega, jumbo ramp through the kitchen to get to the entrance every walking person took only two steps up to access the concert hall entrance and end up in the SAME place that you had to American Ninja Warrior your way around the building to get to.”
You must think I am negative, complaining and unappreciative. I assure you that I am not! Believe me, when I encounter the once in a million truly accessible building, I CELEBRATE! Someone realized I am no different than them. I may navigate through the world differently, I may have less to work with in terms of legs, height, etc.
But I am still a deeply feeling, creative, curious, loving, giving human being who simply, every now and again, would like to enjoy the privilege of all the standing women by simply looking in the bathroom mirror.