Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Accessing Columbia's Dating World-Paige Neary & Alisha price

By: Paige Neary & Alisha Price
We began our accessibility date project with open minds and optimistic hearts. Our hope was that the old college town we had come to love so much wouldn’t let us down in regards to accessibility. Our goal was to have as much fun as possible and put Columbia to the test. To get started, we assumed our date would either live downtown or close to campus with easy access to be able to meet us at our dining location. We chose Midici, the hot new pizza place located on the corner of Broadway and 10th street.


The first thing we noticed as we arrived at the Neapolitan Pizza Company, was the wide sidewalks in front of and adjacent to the entrance. Had one of us arrived early, there would be plenty of space to wait outside.  Once we entered the restaurant, aside from the incredibly pleasing aesthetic, it was obvious that it was meant to be accessible. After speaking to the manager, and a couple different employees we were informed that they met all ADA requirements when constructing their facility. After spending some time there, we quickly realized that they had exceeded the requirements and it would be a comfortable visit for all patrons with disabilities.


Spaces designated for ordering, paying for the food, and waiting to pick up were all spacious with large amounts of room to spread out.

As we migrated into the bathrooms to check out their quality, we noticed a few things. The hallways to the rooms were relatively narrow due to a small table, but for the most part open. The bathrooms were also not gender neutral and could be an issue for trans customers. The sinks were very easily accessible since they were open underneath and would be very easy to roll up to. The biggest issue we had with the bathroom was that it was abnormally dark. If someone were to have a sight impairment, using the restroom could be a challenge. Overall, we were very pleased with the accommodations Midici had to offer.


After our bellies were full, we headed to the Rose Music Hall for a little bit of entertainment. Unfortunately, our venture to the concert hall was filled with obstacles. There were pot holes and large cracks galore! This was the biggest struggle we found during our outing, was poor maintenance of pedestrian sidewalks and crossings. On top of this, there was a sharp incline that wheelchair users could have found difficult.


Once we arrived at the venue, a few things stuck out to us quickly. The parking lot was an absolute mess. Wide pot holes covered its surface, while large rocks obstructed its pathways. A ramp to the entrance was included. Although, once inside, Rose had a fairly accessible venue. There were smooth pathways, along with wide access points. Outside there was a stage in the middle of its backyard with plenty of seating that one could roll up to. The biggest obstacle here would be the grass.


Inside only high top tables were seen, along with a bar top that would be too high for wheelchair users to access. Another challenge would be positioning during the show. Since it is just one semi-large open room, our dates and ourselves would have to be front row in order to actually see the band performing. We would have to arrive with enough time in advance to land a spot in the front. The bathrooms were also incredibly dirty with relatively narrow access points. Overall, the Rose Music Hall was easy to actually make it in the door, but realistically for a show it might not be the BEST choice on entertainment. Although, shows at the venue generally draw smaller crowds it may be easier to attend.

After our concert, we were still craving something a little sweet, so we made our way Sparky’s ice cream. We took the same route down 10th street- which you could really say “up” 10th street due to the sharp incline- from Rose Music Hall to Midici, then on to Sparky’s on 9th street. Once we hit Broadway and got on 9th, it was all downhill from there. Literally. Not in reference to the date-ha! Along with the changes in incline and decline, there were also quite a few cracks and bumps in the sidewalk on the way to Sparky’s.

When we got to Sparky’s, I noticed the doorway was pretty easily accessible, with no real change in smoothness or bumps as you go in. It was, however, slightly narrow, but the floors we very smooth. Surprisingly, space was limited, with a few low and accessible tables to sit at or roll up to. The ice cream was easy to see through a low glass barrier, and we both ordered a piƱa colada flavor. Was it the mocktail or cocktail version? I’ll leave that up to your imagination.
When accessing the bathroom, the hallway to it was made quite narrow by paintings lining the wall on the floor.  There was only one bathroom, so technically it was gender neutral. Support bars on the wall made for easy access to the toilet, but the sink was slightly high as well the mirror, which was annoyingly small.

After our sweet treat, we could feel a nice chemistry that had built up throughout the course of the date, so we decided to head to Peace Park for a little ~alone time~. Of course on the way we encountered a few bumps and cracks going down 9th street, followed by a sharp decline on Locust. Luckily, the temperature was perfectly comfortable and the street very easily flowed to sidewalk on the left entrance of Peace Park.
Once we entered Peace Park, the path declined pretty sharply. There were benches scattered throughout the park, but many weren’t accessible because they were off the path out in the bumpy grass. Eventually we found a bench -the only bench- connected to the concrete path, so we could easily sit down and talk. We joked about the performer at Rose Music Hall and sparks were definitely flying as we got to know each other even better. The only little hiccup was that anyone making their way down the path would have to go around our date’s chair due to the fact that that the bench was right at the path with no surrounding room. The private time at the park was the perfect way to end the night and spend some quiet time connecting on a deeper level. Overall, our date was a success and we’re crossing our fingers for a second one.
After going on this date, we learned to pay more attention to our surroundings. There were a lot of places that blocked off a lot of space that one who is a wheelchair user might need. We weren’t allowed to use our own apartments for private time, because our complex only has stair access to upper floors. Although, Brookside does offer handicap units. We never considered the number of hills downtown that could make using a wheelchair more difficult. We realized how luckily convenient it is that downtown Columbia has everything relatively close, whereas in a town where you need to drive from place to place it may be hard to find parking and proper transportation. This date was very eye opening for us, and definitely put our views of dating and pretty much what we do in everyday life in a different perspective.

Gauging Como's Accessibility

Columbia, Missouri is like any other place on Earth. It has citizens with disabilities, and, simultaneously, a largely inaccessible infrastructure. Throughout our group date journey, we found obstructions from sandwich boards in the middle of the sidewalk, to unavoidable potholes, to terrifying elevators. Our trip was wrought with discoveries and considerations that we had never thought of before going through town more consciously than ever.

Jim's Trip - Upon starting my normal route out of my apartment, I realized first the immense challenge presented by the small foyer of the space. While I do not live in one of my building’s accessible apartments, it seems unreasonable to make an apartment inaccessible right out of the gate. From there, the elevator (which has broken down for extended periods of time twice this year), is relatively small and leads to two exits, one in the front with stairs, and one in the back with a steep ramp. Obviously, having taken the ramp, I ended up out near Hitt St. Garage and walked along through it. When I was on my way out of it, I ran into my first lip in the sidewalk, followed quickly by many messy curb cuts. Walking along Elm, I noticed three sandwich boards that essentially created a slalom and allowed barely for one wheelchair user to get through, much less two. Moving along, 9th Street was largely smooth and accessible. That said, there was no way for someone in the Deaf community to know when and when not to cross the street, and minimal bumps at curb cuts for folks who are blind. As I got to Broadway Brewery, I went into the back alleyway that leads to to accessible entrance, across from a row of dumpsters.

Ali's Trip - Leaving my house to head to Broadway Brewery, I instantly noticed that the only way to get out of the house was by stairs. I live on East Campus, which is known for its inaccessible housing. Coming back to my house for private time after the date was definitely not an option. During my walk to downtown I observed that the sidewalks are horribly bumpy and destroyed. There are large gaps in between the roads and the sidewalks and some squares are mismatched, causing lips in the cement. These sidewalks would cause difficulty for anyone rolling through East Campus. The crosswalk at University Ave and College Ave looks completely normal to an able-bodied person, but is actually quite dangerous for many others. The crosswalk machines don’t tell pedestrians when to walk and wait, and there are no raised bumps indicating the upcoming road. I noticed that the sidewalks downtown are not much better, with large lips and gaps and many bumps.

Jasmine's Trip - Starting my journey to the first location for our date, I left my home in the Benton-Stephen area. From the moment that I left my home, I noticed how inaccessible my home was. The front of my home has three steps that I had to go down and there is a steep driveway that if someone with a wheelchair would not be able to use. I began walking down Paris Road. While walking on the street, I noticed how small the street sidewalk was. There was not enough space for two people to walk next to each other comfortably and if there are two wheelchair users then it is impossible. Once I got to the four way intersection of College and Paris Road I noticed how dangerous it was. There was no voice activated crossing stand to tell someone to walk across the street if they were blind. As I continued down College Ave, the sidewalks were narrows just like those on Paris Road and the street has a bit of a dip in. Once I got by Stephen college campus, it was a bit uphill which was a bit difficult as someone who is able bodied so I could imagine that it was difficult for those who are wheelchair user. The intersection of College and Broadway was a lot better then the one the others in that there were lips for those who are blinded and there was a voice activated stoplight that told me when to walk across. However, there was 10 second timer to get across which was not a lot of time to get across the intersection which is always quite busy. Once I got downtown the sidewalks were spacious and all of the corners were accessible for wheelchair users along with lips.

Entering Broadway Brewery from the back entrance, we noticed a nice, smooth ramp that led to a wide dining area. Near it were two bathrooms, one women’s and one men’s (no gender neutral or all gender). The bathrooms had a fair amount of room, but hardly enough to maneuver a power chair. The sinks were at a reasonable height, but the mirrors were too high to see more than a forehead. Continuing back into the dining room, we got around to the front near the host stand and noticed that it was too high for a wheelchair user to have an interaction with an able bodied host. Overall, it was not too loud in the space, but the dim lighting could be difficult for folks with vision impairments. The tables were spaced out well enough for two wheelchair users to sit comfortably with one another. The menu was a bit pricey, but not terribly inaccessible. From there we decided to make the journey to Ragtag for some entertainment.

As we were heading to Ragtag, we had a comfortable walk for the first section of alleyway, but the second portion was filled with nasty potholes and lips that made walking  or rolling incredibly hazardous. As we got into Ragtag, we realized that it is about half accessible and half inaccessible. There is a ramp up to the door and the building is all one level. The theatres are accessible with ramps inside of stairs to enter. The aisles inside the theatre are a little bit narrow, with many enough room for one wheelchair to get through but definitely not two. The couches in the very front row are really the only option for seating, which might get uncomfortable during a long movie. We checked out the bathrooms on the way out and noticed that there was no gender-neutral option. The men’s restroom had a very accessible bathroom with three rails and a fairly low sink. The women’s bathroom, on the other had, was very inaccessible for someone using a wheelchair. The door was heavy and difficult to open, and the sink and mirror were high and on top of a cabinet. The stalls were very narrow, and neither stall had rails for support. We later found out that there was a gender-neutral, accessible bathroom in the hallway on the way into the movie theatres, but to be able to gain entry to that bathroom, someone would need to purchase a movie ticket or ask an employee to be let behind the curtain. After exploring, we decided to head over to the top of Hitt St. Garage for some private time.

On our way to Hitt St. Garage, we encountered a lot of problems with the sidewalks. There were many large holes in the sidewalks that were difficult to navigate. The sidewalk was narrow and made it difficult for multiple people to walk alongside each other. As we were getting closer to the garage, it becomes a very steep uphill incline which can be difficult for wheelchair users. Since there is only one entrance to get to the elevator in Hitt St, we walked though the first level of the garage to get there. This was the quicker way to get to the elevator. The only other option is to go around the garage and go up the uphill incline to get to the entrance with the elevator. Once we got to the elevator, we noticed how unclean it was and it did not look safe to use. There were buttons on the elevator that did not work and we knew that there are certain floors that the elevator does not stop. Once we got to the top of the garage, we noticed that there was no button to put to have the open and it was a pretty heavy door. We then proceeded to enjoy the beautiful view of campus and enjoy each other company.

Overall, CoMo is a predominantly inaccessible city. There are bright spots. We have intersections with audible signals. We have smooth ramps here and there. We have regular curb cuts. At many points, however, we fail miserably at accessibility. By not being fully accessible, we cannot claim to be an accessible town, and accessible dates are hard to come by. Accessibility as a societal issue is something we still struggle with in columbia, and something that our group will certainly be far more cognizant of.

Monday, April 24, 2017

How Accessible is COMO? By, Kathleen McTearnen and Zachary Suchman

Throughout Downtown Columbia there plenty of places that are

accessible and there are many that aren't. For our date we stayed in a smaller 

walking distance for convenience of the date goers. Our three stops included Shakespeare's Pizza for 

dinner and drinks, The Missouri Theater for some live entertainment followed by a lovely end to the 

evening stay at the Tiger Hotel for some private time. 

Stop 1 (Shakespeare's Pizza)

When arriving to Shakespeare's we noticed that it is located right on the corner of the road so there is 

lip on the corner of the street basically leading up to the entrance of the restaurant. Across the street 

there is a handicap parking space that is also located right near a corner there a lip is provided. This 

makes better access to the parking space and the restaurant in order to help add convenience for our

date and so we were able to have the  capability to go to places easier in that vicinity.

When we entered Shakespeare's we noticed both good and not so good ways

Shakespeare's had made accommodations for wheelchair users. 

The pizza counter was not accessible due to the height of the counter where they place the finished 

pizzas, a wheelchair user would not be able to reach the pan or the box of pizza so our date would

have to get the pizza when it was ready due to not being able to reach since the height of the counter

was so tall. However, there are stairs and the hallways are pretty wide open to be

 able to roll a wheelchair thru comfortably. Another positive of Shakespeare's

was that the tables are a good height that a wheelchair would be able to roll 

right up and sit comfortably with no problems of the table being too low or too high for the 

individual. A final negative of the restaurant was the bar area was too high. The counter for the bar 

was way too high for a wheelchair user to sit with their date and drink comfortably so we had to

order our drinks and sit back at a table which worked out just fine because we were enjoying each

other's company wherever we sat. We then moved onto our second stop on the date.

Stop 2 (The Missouri Theater)

The Missouri Theater is just up one block from Shakespeare's Pizza so we figured that 

a little live entertainment after a delicious pizza and beer would be a great place

to go and enjoy some more time together. When we got to the theater we saw that it was incredibly 

ADA friendly with no stairs going into the theater and having a ramp leading to the lower level 

seating and an elevator leading to the upper level seating which gave us plenty of options on where

we wanted to sit and what level we preferred.  There were quite a few sections accessible 

for wheelchairs to be able to park to sit and watch the show. One negative we did come across was 

that we were not able to find any gender neutral bathrooms, however we stayed in the main area and

our seats. After the show was over we went around the corner and down a few blocks to have some

alone time.

Stop 3 (The Tiger Hotel)

On our journey to the Tiger Hotel we came across some bumpy sidewalks and cross walks. These 

were a bit challenging for our date because we were having such great conversation, it really put a 

damper on the talk because our date had to focus on wheeling down the sidewalk and avoid all the 

bumps and cracks that could be detrimental to the date. Once we finally made it to the Tiger Hotel 

we noticed there was yet another handicap parking spot and a parking garage with handicap parking 

spaces available on the first floor. However, when we got to the lip of the sidewalk it was another 

rough patch to go up because there were many holes and dips and cracks in that little ramp. A great 

positive of the hotel was that there are two automated doors on either side of the revolving door that 

our date could go thru. Immediately when we got into the hotel we saw a few stairs that led up to the 

receptionist desk and took us a minute to find the elevator as it is tucked away by luggage racks. 

Once we got to the receptionist desk we were able to check in just fine and go to one of the four 

handicap accessible rooms for our alone time and concluded our date.

Our date was a blast and we are so glad we found places that were pretty accessible to go to. Overall the project was a great learning experience for the both of us and realized that many more places could be accessible

The Ultimate Guide To Woo Your Date

Dating in the 21st century has become harder than ever.  Everyone in this day and age tries to outdo everyone else in wooing their dream date.  However, when dating someone with a disability, there is an extra challenge of making sure all aspects of your date are accessible to your wonderful date!  That is why we have come up with “The Ultimate Guide To Woo Your Date!” This guide is a guarantee to getting a second date with the person of your dreams and having a great time!  The date includes a great dinner at Lee Street Deli, an intellectual exhibit at the Sauger Braudis Gallery, and we will end the night at the high-end Broadway Hotel to really seal the deal in wooing your date.

     The night begins with meeting your dream date at Lee Street Deli -- a staple for students on East Campus and campus wide.  Located centrally on the corner of Lee Street and Wilson Avenue, it is a convenient spot to meet with a student from any location in Columbia.   The curb has ramp access and a double wide sidewalk as you walk in, and a beautiful patio you can easily roll up to a table at.  However, you will have to wheel around a pothole as you get closer to the front door.  The doorway itself has a wide frame which would allow for most sizes of wheelchairs to enter, and has a flat door entrance.  Once you are in the deli, you will instantly notice the space and extreme accessibility of the restaurant.  The store is mainly open space which would make it extremely easy to maneuver around anywhere in the restaurant you need to go.  There are only two table in the entire restaurant and they are both as you can see booths with plenty of room to fit a chair in at the end of the table.  When it comes to ordering, it couldn't be more accessible to all with a low counter, space to roll up, and a slot in which a chair can fit, anybody is welcome to the deli.  With ample lighting and a very large overhead menu, the deli is very accessible to anyone who may suffer from any visual issues.  Not to mention having only two tables makes for a cozy and quiet environment to get to know your date, and without lots of other people around, it is very useful for any dating with auditory disabilities. And the menu features a low cost with a large portion of food, convenient for any budget and socio-economic status. While there is no bathroom for customers, the next two stops on our date have very accessible bathrooms.  After you finish your meal, you will continue your stimulating conversation as you walk from Lee Street Deli to the next stop, Sauger Braudis Art Gallery, for some entertainment.
            On the walk from Lee Street Deli to Sauger Braudis Art Gallery, it’s a bit of a journey, but offers plenty of time for you to charm your date with intellectual conversation and witty banter. The crosswalk is extremely damaged at University Avenue and College Avenue, so it’s best to avoid that part of the intersection, and head into campus. There are a few uneven parts of the sidewalk and cracks in the road down after passing Hitt Street. When we started down Ninth Street towards Walnut Street, we ran into some construction that forced pedestrians to walk alongside traffic. After passing Kaldi’s Coffee, there were four or five sandwich boards outside of the businesses that forced us to “snake” through the sidewalk, and we considered to be a major inconvenience for wheelchair users or people with poor vision. This would not be ideal if you’re trying to woo your date.
            At the art gallery, there are two entrances: one with a steep incline, and one with a leveled entrance to accommodate disabled persons. The gallery has a lot of open space that would allow a wheelchair user plenty of room to wheel around the exhibits and furniture. On each wall, there are paintings or other forms of art, and beside each piece of art are were brochures for the gallery and the current art collection. These brochures were sitting at a low height, which we found to be accessible for people in wheelchairs. However, none of the brochures or information were offered in braille, so it would not be accessible for someone who is blind. Also, there were descriptions next to the art pieces, but they were extremely high on the wall, and written in a tiny font.
            The bathrooms in the gallery were not gender neutral, which may be disappointing to your date, but they offered a lot of space for wheelchair users. There were two single stalls and one handicapped stall. In the handicapped stall, there were three bars next to the toilet for support. A disappointing part of the bathroom was the counters—they were very high, and the soap and faucet were very far from the end of the counter. The sinks would be almost impossible for a wheelchair user to access, which is disappointing, considering how accessible the bathrooms had been thus far.
After a long night on the town, we figured we would hit up one of Columbia’s newer hotel hot spots. The Broadway, located directly on Broadway Street in the heart of downtown, is a perfect spot for a private space. At first we had originally wanted to go to the Tiger Hotel, since it is a landmark of Columbia, but their website and staff weren’t clear on accommodations for disabled people. When asked if we could take photos of their accommodations that they had mentioned, Dale, the Manager on Duty had told us that taking photos was a “process” and we would be “fined” if we did. The same thing happened when we asked to take photos of the Broadway Hotel, but their staff was more understanding.
On our walk to the Broadway, we ran into some issues with the sidewalks downtown obviously, but we were able to take a shortcut through their parking garage to get to the front entrance, and the garage had a very wide crosswalk area that was in very good condition.

The Broadway is noticeably accessible even from the outside. With ramps, a large front electric door, and a wide and smooth sidewalk. The lobby is also extremely accessible it features, room to get a chair around, low lounge couches, and even an accessible bathroom in the lobby while you wait for your room to be ready, as well as extra wide hallways throughout the hotel. The
hotel features 8 different accessible rooms featuring roll-in showers, accessible tubs (with 5 helpful support access bars), space for a chair to wheel all around, a roll-up accessible bathroom vanity, accessible toilets, lowered towel holders, and visual alerts. There is also braille in the elevators as well as on the room numbers.
The Broadway Hotel is a Doubletree by Hilton, so it isn’t very economically accessible, and would probably be better for a second date or for someone you really want to impress.  But with accessible rooms starting at $80 a night, it's definitely worth saving for!
While having your dream date with an individual with any form of disabilities can have its added concerns when it comes to accessibility, many of Columbia’s best spots have made planning easier by implementing various helpful features to make the date go as smoothly as possible. Spots like Lee Street Deli, Sauger Braudis Art Gallery, and the Broadway Hotel make a memorable date that your partner will remember because of your charm and sweet talk, rather than how hard it was for them on the date! So all you need to do is bring your charm, charisma, and most importantly your A-game (and maybe a letter to the city about the sidewalks)!

Sidewalk from the Gallery to the Broadway Hotel: