Temporary Obstacles Can be as Frustrating as Permanent Ones
By: Parrish L. Stahl
Holidays and crowds are part of life, especially at Christmas time, but do you realize how often the bell ringer and their bucket or that service clubs nut sales display park themselves in the middle of an access isle? But it is only temporary, Right? Think about it every month presents special occasions that make life and mobility hard for those of us that need accessibility. As soon as late January those Valentine’s Day displays go up in retail stores. For a person using a mobility device, it means far too often, that isles that were beautifully designed to incorporate accessibility are invaded by temporary holiday displays. It is usually only a few inches and when questioned well-meaning workers say, “it is only temporary”.
The problem is March is St. Patrick’s Day, then Easter, Memorial Day, Mother’s & Father’s Day and those fireworks on every checkout celebrating Independence Day. Oh, and then Labor Day and the big back to school push that fills end caps and isles with backpacks and cardboard boxes full of notebook paper and other supplies. Finally, Halloween rings in fall with ghosts and monsters everywhere with literally tons of extra sweets crowding isles.
It is much easier to accept that an eighty year old building has steps and is inaccessible than it is to know an access route is being blocked by a shopping cart because that is a convenient spot for a cashier to put returns. Her explanation, “it is only temporary, until I find time to put these returns back”. Recently at a craft show a portable ATM was parked in the middle of a sidewalk only for the day. When a picture was shared with the financial institution they made a commitment to not let this happen again.
Does anyone else have a hard time smiling and asking that things be moved? Why am I so often embarrassed because I need to move something that after all, is only temporary? One could argue, so is the motorcycle parked in my access isle, the choir risers set up in circulation space, the garbage can that traps me in a bathroom, the pallets, of salt, mulch and soil and other items that change with the seasons, like bicycles, garden tractors and swing sets. Does it make these obstacles any less of a problem because they change? Education and the public’s understanding is the key to real change.