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Pondering accessibility.

Recently on Facebook a friend tagged me in a post about accessibility. They were great - included in their comment an offer to only engage if I had both the willingness and the spoons to do so. (If you are unfamiliar with the term check out this amazing post on it by Christine Miserandino here). She was responding to a friend who had queries about how to approach accessibility.

I took some time to formulate my thoughts and give them in some bite sized "chunks" - okay they were less bite sized and more like a full sized candy bar at a time. After putting that energy into the articulation I decided to put them here.

I opted to pose these more in the format of questions with the intention of highlighting common challenges. Feel free to apply them as makes sense. Your milage may vary. Please note this is in NO WAY an exhaustive list. Please please please do some of your own homework around accessibility both in terms of how it relates to you as an individual and the spaces you live/work/play in. Some general notes about accessibility:

* How hard is it to get into a given space?

Are there stairs? How "tall" is the lip of the door frame? - Even a single stair without a handrail can be a challenge for: those using wheels, motors, canes, braces, & more: individuals living with nerve damage, fibromyalgia, muscle atrophy, arthritis, & more.

Ramps - what's angle? Can one pause on the ramp safely? Is the ramp the *only* way in or out of the space? (This last question can sneak up on you - people often loose their patience with those who can not move with the same speed that they can)

* How much ambient noise is there in the space?

Even a low electrical hum can present a challenge for those with hearing disabilities. Certain pitches can be unbearable for those with sensory-processing disorders.

* What is the lighting like? Is it harsh? Would you describe it as glaring? Light sensitivity is something many many folxs live with all the time. See also transitioning from dark spaces to light spaces and vice versa can be incredibly disorienting.

* Are there places to sit?

Do those places have back support? Are they cramped? Do they have arms or other surfaces that can safely be used as leverage?

* Are there designated handicap tables or seating?

Do those spaces have enough clearance for an individual using a wheelchair to sit safely and comfortably - or will they be blocking part of a walkway? How about for an individual using a motorized scooter? An individual using a walker? Cane? Is there space for their mobility aid to be within reach of the individual using it?

* Are people aware of how to treat service animals? Do they approach the animal first and not the owner? (Hint: This is NOT the way to do it) Do they assume they can interact with any animal in their vicinity? Respect the vest the same way you would respect a surgeon. Don't interrupt their job and ALWAYS remember that their owner relies on that animal for a condition that is NONE of your business. If they choose to share about it with you great - don't dig.

Public Space restrooms - coffee shops, restaurants, grocery stores, retail spaces, movie theaters, entertainment venues, meeting spaces, outdoor gathering spaces like farmer's markets, flea markets, festivals, etc. Not an exhaustive list.

* Is it easy to *know* where the restroom is?

Clearly labeled? Do I need to ask someone? Is there a sign that is visible from a seated position? Different heights? Is the signage written or using symbol? (Kicker - a lot of restroom signs in the US are only in written English. Sometimes even in swirly/swishy/fancy fonts. This is amazingly hard on folks who are ELL, have vision complications, etc.)

* How do you get to the restroom?

Is it a twisty turn-y pathway? Do you have to "brush" past other customers seats? Display racks? Storage bins? Are there stairs? Remember even a single stair can pose a challenge. Is there enough clearance for a wheelchair? For a scooter? For a walker?

* Let's look at the door.

Is it heavy to push on? Can someone do it one handed? Does it require ummph or momentum just to open the door? Is the handle low - high - is there a handle? Does it require turning a knob - knobs are a challenge for those with grip difficulties (arthritis, nerve damage, muscle atrophy, etc.). Handles are more accessible than knobs.

* What's the height of the sink?

If I'm using a wheelchair is my face going to be in the direct spray zone? If I'm using a walker can I get close enough to the sink to reach the knobs? If I'm standing and in a back brace or neck brace can I safely access the sink?

* Getting to the toilet.

Does the pathway to the toilet have enough room for a wheelchair? A scooter? If I am using a mobility aid to assist me will I be blocking other stalls or doors in my motions to get to the stall myself? Does the stall door swing out or in? If it swings out and I am using a mobility aid I am going to have to maneuver myself backwards before I can move forwards into the space. If someone in another stall opens their door are they going to open it directly *into* me if I am not yet in the stall I've selected?

* Are there support bars near the toilet???? Is someone relying on the toilet paper holder/cover to be stable leverage in getting on or off the toilet safely?

* Does the door close by use of fine motor skills and dexterity? Those little turn knobs that have a slight raise or lip to move them in a circular motion... require lots of both fine motor skills and dexterity to operate.

Restrooms in your home.

* Are there steps to get to the restroom? Handrails if there are steps?

Upstairs. Downstairs. In the basement. Off of the "sunken" living room. Restrooms end up in *all* kinds of places in someones living space.

* Is there safe support for someone to lower or rise off of the toilet? Most folxs don't have handrails in their home spaces - either by choice or lack of ability to instal in the space. Is the doorframe an option to help provide that support? What about a countertop? Edge of the bathtub? Maybe keep those spaces clean and clear on the regular just in case.

* Where is the toilet paper?

Do you keep the toilet paper on the back of your toilet? To reach it does someone have to be able to twist around from a seated position? Is there clearance in the room to do that? Is it across from the toilet? Do I need to lean forward to be able to reach it?

* Is there a bath mat or bathroom rug on the floor? Does it have non-slip pads underneath it or rubber grips on the bottom? Is it fluffy? These can pose as hazards for all manner of folxs.

These lists are absolutely not complete and do not touch on a wide number of concerns or challenges that the disabled community live with *every* day. I invite you to ponder on these and see what your spaces are like? Can you make them safer for the people you care about?

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