Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Our Accessible Date by Lydia Sarver, John Saltzman and Matt Vereen

By, Lydia Sarver, John Saltzman & Matt Vereen

       For our "accessible date" we thought it would be an interesting learning experience to try places we would normally go to. If those places were inaccessible, we would have to improv on the fly to find a new possibility. For this project, we were meant to find 1) a meal 2) some kind of entertainment, and 3) plans for some privacy. In the end, all three of our locations were within just a block of each other making for easy commute between locations. That said, it was one of the few bright spots of an otherwise inaccessible "accessible date." We start with food...


Experiencing daily life through the lens of disability was an
eye-opening thing to do.  Living in a world that is designed specifically against you as a person is something that I did not realize would be as taxing mentally as it was.  Once we got to “Big 12” we were excited to find a ramp leading up to one of the front doors but the excitement ended there.  There was absolutely no accessibility anywhere in the restaurant.  Most of the tables were high tops or bar seating so we had to wait for a table that was the proper height.  The angles in and around the dining area were almost impossible to move through but the worst was the bathrooms.  
There are 2 girls and 2 guys bathrooms in the place.  
The girls and guys bathrooms that have multiple stalls are both a staircase away from access, the guys downstairs and the girls upstairs.  The other bathrooms are single stall and always have huge lines because of it so it was nearly impossible to use the bathroom.  Not off to a great start on the date because of the bad design at “Big 12.”  Once we went to Silver Ball and then were ready for our private time we attempted to go to my apartment but of course it ended up being impossible.  The design at my apartment complex is heinous.  There are stairs followed by a very tight corner just to get into the front door and that is the only entrance.  Then if we managed to get inside there are 4 bedrooms, 2 upstairs and 2 downstairs.  I am in the basement and it would be impossible to make it down to my room so my apartment was off the table.


We chose Silverball as our entertainment part of our date as it is a new spot in downtown Columbia. The walk from Big 12 to Silverball was quick and the sidewalks were relatively even.
This bar and arcade, or as it is cleverly called “barcade”, has an easily accessible entrance that is all one level and the entryway is incredibly wide, but that is about where the accessibility stops when it comes to Silverball. The barcade is not one level, a majority of the games that you see upon walking in are on a platform that would involve stepping up to get on. All the pinball machines are upstairs, and the only way up is to use the giant staircase in the middle of the building. The games that can be accessed are limited to about a variety of 4 in the back, and one of them is Dance Dance Revolution. If you and your date wanted to sit somewhere, well good luck, the bar has all high stools and the one sitting area was up on a platform only accessible by stairs.  
The bathrooms were hidden off in the back, one could easily of mistook them for just not being there as the doors were decorated with odd murals of muscular men and women, and did
not appear to be the most accommodating for someone with a wheelchair.


The irony of seeking privacy in a public park was not lost on us. The idea of returning to one of our apartments was not an option. All three were completely inaccessible. Though each apartment complex offered disabled living spaces, they were separate from the other housing meaning none of us lived in accessible buildings.

This brought up an interesting point about housing access. We all live off campus because it is cheaper. Living off campus would come with far more inconveniences for someone who is disabled due to needing to get to campus or downtown. This makes downtown living far more appealing, but it is also exponentially more expensive. For those who are disabled, Columbia seems to offer no perfect housing solution: either be rich or deal with the problems.

Because of this, we were forced to settle with the park. While it limits what "activities" you could partake in, it is a nice location to have a quiet and relatively private conversation.

The paths were relatively flat and most utilize slopes over stairs.

That said, it had it's flaws. The only bench that was accessible without leaving the path is shown in the top photo. It is right next to the main sidewalk and offers no privacy from the occasional passerby.

In the park's defense, however, we had never noticed how flat it is.
Most parks include various hills and rocks. Peace Park would be possible
for someone in a wheelchair to navigate off-path. It wouldn't be easy, though.


In the end, we did experience something very unique yet frustrating.  It is impossibly hard to know just how hard it is to live in a world literally not designed for you.  There are many places that have become much more accessible and better for everyone but there is clearly a long way to go.  The mental stress of trying to work around a world that wasn’t trying to work for everyone was a very difficult thing to do.  Hopefully sooner rather than later, most places are accessible to all and it won’t be such a struggle to enjoy the same things that others do.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Accessible Date: Jeremy, Aidan, Tyler

Date Night

As a group we made it our mission to evaluate the accessibility for wheelchair users in Columbia.
We judged facilities based on not only meeting necessary ADA regulations but noting stressful accommodations and other issues. Our date met us for dinner at India’s House which is conveniently located in the middle of downtown on Broadway Street. The sidewalks in the downtown area are in fairly good shape and posed no major issues for travel. Although we must also take into account how far our date may have had to travel and what sidewalk conditions were like from their home.

Sidewalks in fair shape.

Reachable crosswalk button.

Date Map

Dinner: India's House

We began the date with dinner at India’s House. The lovely restaurant immediately stuck out as an inconvenience due to its entryway. The outer door includes a door handle on the right side, opening toward the left, which would make it hard for one in a wheelchair to get through. After the first door, there is another door opening the same way with very little space to get by. Getting a wheelchair through the second door would have been a major struggle for a wheelchair user because it requires a very tight turn. The floor of the restaurant contained mostly booths, with three standard tables and chairs. Essentially, the tables would comfortably accommodate wheelchair users, however, in the case that all tables were taken, wheelchair users would have to sit at the end of booths. Crowding is a huge potential issue in that regard. The buffet table was surprisingly low and pretty accessible. The bathrooms are not accessible by any means; they include tight turns and there is practically no space for an able-bodied person to turn around in them, so a wheelchair user would surely be out of luck. The staff members seemed friendly and willing to assist, but we could have surely chosen a more accessible option for dinner.
Tight entrance, door handle hard to reach.

Ripped up ramp.

Door opens into a terribly tight area.

Dining tables.

Lunch buffet station.

Host/Hostess stand, fairly high.

Completely inaccessable bathrooms. 

Far too tight: Stamp of Disproval.

Entertainment: Slackers

After a lovely dinner at India’s House we made our way across the street to Slackers to browse their selection of comic books, films, and games. The entrance to Slackers was open and easy to navigate, but the rows of shelves inside were somewhat tight. There was also the problem of several hard-to-reach items. The staff there were very helpful and accommodating, but we noted that asking for help to reach something may be an anxiety-inducing prospect, or at the very least annoying when on a date. There was one specific area that was entirely inaccessible (which was very disappointing, as this was the location of the Star Wars figurines). Aside from these factors, spending an evening at Slackers would be enjoyable and entertaining.

Wide Entrance 

Narrow but usable aisles

Deep shelving, hard to reach the back.

Inaccessible corner (Star Wars figurines).

Low countertops.

Privacy: Ucentre on Turner

After a long night of very enjoyable comic book browsing and fork shoveling we headed to an apartment at Ucentre on Turner for some much needed privacy. The sidewalks narrow and increase in bumps and cracks as we navigated away from the downtown area, later returning to an acceptable condition near campus. Once arriving at the apartment complex we were pleased beyond belief. The halls are wide, stairs are matched with ramps, and the elevators are extremely wide and comfortable. Inside the apartment is a spacious, open-layout kitchen and living room. The half bar that serves as the kitchen counter is a bit high and not ideal but certainly usable. The trickiest part is getting into the bedroom. It is a much narrower space which limits and possibly prevents mobility around the sharp corners. This might make getting to the bathroom, which large and equipped with a low-setting sink and mirror, difficult. The bed is also higher than average and we deemed it not functional. All things said and done, we enjoyed are private time in the living room area. This seems to have been a common issue with many spaces. A space can be deemed accessible if a wheelchair user can enter the area, it does not always translate to reaching all attractions.

Wide entryway with smooth concrete.

Low-sitting key access.

Extremely wide hallways.

Large elevator: stamp of approval.

Spacious living an kitchen area.

Very tight entrance into bedroom.

Tall bed.

Indoor ramp.

Finishing Thoughts...

We did want to point out how differences in income affect accessibility. The newer, more expensive apartment complexes are more likely to be accessible than cheaper alternatives. The sidewalks in the lower income parts of town will likely follow suit in declining quality. It is important to understand all aspects of accessibility and the factors that contribute to individuals can differ. We also recognized that each step of our date had issues, whether large or small it impacted our time together. It was an eye-opening experience that took our knowledge from the classroom and brought it to life. We will most definitely be more conscious of public spaces and how simple design flaws can make drastic impact on the lives of many.

An Accessible Date with Jessica, Kristyna and Tessa

The accessible date project was a mind-altering assignment. In order to understand the everyday struggles a wheelchair user may face, the project urged us to acknowledge these struggles. While we will never understand the lived experience of a wheelchair user, the project forced us to consider how we would be able to accommodate a wheelchair user on a date and make it a comfortable, enjoyable experience.

Our date began with a nice meal at Ingredient Eatery in downtown Columbia. We chose this restaurant particularly for its convenient location to the other businesses and nightlife activities. Furthermore, Ingredient is a fairly accessible location to eat at. A wheelchair user would probably find this location more favorable, compared to other downtown restaurants.
The entrance has enough room to move around and find a suitable table. For our date, we decided to sit at the table with a combination of both a booth and two chairs. We would simply move one of the chairs in order for our date to sit across from us.
To order our food, we have to walk down an aisle and up to the counter. This aisle could accomodate a wheelchair easily. Furthermore, the counter is low enough for a wheelchair user to comfortably place their items, and more so, it is not eye level and awkward.
In addition, the soft drink dispenser is also low enough for them to get their down drink. Although the counter is low, some of items are pushed further back. They may have trouble reaching items such as straws, lemons, or napkins. Another difficulty they might face is maneuvering through the restaurant. This may pose a challenge because the tables and booths are close together. The tables in the middle of the room are usually spaced out, which forces even able-bodied people to move around them and feeling cramped. What’s more, the bathrooms are very large and accessible. For example, there are handlebars along the walls, if one might need them. The mirror even goes down low enough to where a wheelchair user could see themselves in while they were washing their hands.

As we made our way to the Missouri Theater for the [fictitious] performance, we noticed that the sidewalk and curbs along 9th street were in acceptable conditions for a wheelchair user. Furthermore, we noticed that the sidewalk was wide enough to be walking along the side of your date, as well as having enough room for people walking in the opposite direction.

The entrance into the Missouri Theater has level ground and two wide avenues to the doors. On the right, exterior wall there is an automatic door-opener to assist those with disabilities. The theater’s entrance hall has an open floor plan; thus, many people can move around comfortability. Depending on where your seats are, there is a brand new, extra wide ramp that makes it easier to get from the lobby to the house, or using the elevator to get to the balcony. The balcony has additional handicapped spots so people with mobile disabilities are not limited to spots on the floor.
Throughout the theater, there are only a few designated areas for wheelchairs, one of which is located right along the aisle. Although this section is carved out for the position of a wheelchair, this limits the seating arrangements for the disabled. In addition, the aisles on the first floor are relatively narrow, so a wheelchair user would ultimately use most of space to get to their seating section. This might be problematic if there was an incidence of a fire or other cause for vacating the theater.

Additionally, the bathrooms have the designated handicapped stalls, but we noticed how the width of the stall-doors might be a bit problematic. For this reason, there are usually lines of people waiting to use a stall. If a wheelchair user were to be in line, or opening the handicapped door, it would essentially touch the people in line. Although most people would move out of the way, the fact that there is not enough room to comfortability move around might make it difficult for the wheelchair user.

Lastly, there is a small exhibit area near the bathrooms. The exhibit has a old fashioned camera, pictures, and a mural for visitors to walk through before or after the show. Although the exhibit is not very large, the hallway itself is fairly wide. You and your date could comfortability explore the exhibit side by side.
One critique we have about the theater is that depending on the show, people can not always reserve a certain spot. Some shows allow people to reserve a spot through the purchase of their ticket. However, if it’s general admission, then “it’s first come, first serve.” Nonetheless, one thing to keep in mind about the Missouri Theater is that it is an old building. It was built almost 100 years ago and back then, accessibility was not something that was considered. To maximize the handicap friendliness of it would take an incredible amount of money and drastic modifications. According to an employee, it’s money that the university doesn't want to put into it. Overall, the theater association is doing the best they can with the state it is in and the budget they have.

We struggled to find a place to have some private time on our date. Tessa’s house, while closest to downtown on North 8th Street, was inaccessible. The only entrance to her house is through a porch that’s raised a foot above the ground and can only be ascended by a set of three steps. Even if a wheelchair user were able to get onto the porch by being carried, it would be extremely difficult to move throughout the house as the floors are literally sloped because the foundation is sinking since it’s such an old property. This made us think more about how socioeconomic status can intersect with ability. Especially in a college town, in order to live in a newly renovated building that would have more ADA-accessible features, it may cost more and a wheelchair user would be restricted in where they could live. Since we knew that Tessa’s house was out of the picture, we tried to go to a quiet bar to have a drink with our date. First, we headed to The Understudy, just a few blocks from The Missouri Theatre. However, since the The Understudy is based in the basement of Kaldi’s, the only way to enter was through a single set of stairs. Luckily, Craft Beer Cellar was right across the street, so we headed there:
Unfortunately, we faced a similar difficult. A ramp at the entrance only leads to a closed-off alley on the side of the building, and the entrance to the basement bar also required a set of stairs to enter. Because two of the closest casual bars were inaccessible, we settled for a cup of coffee at Kaldi’s. The fact that bars were inaccessible, made us think more about how disabled people are often seen as unable to drink alcohol and aren’t typically associated with parties. Kaldi’s was more accessible, although still difficult to navigate:

If our date wanted to order for themselves, the line to the counter would be a tight squeeze and require some things to be moved out of the way. In addition, some seating areas would be off-limits, such as the elevated section toward the back of the coffee shop and the bar seating. We would be able to move chairs from a table so our date could sit across from us, but they would be unable to navigate between aisles as the chairs and tables are packed so tightly next to each other. Ultimately, it would require significant planning ahead of time to pinpoint a place for private time that would be accessible in order to not make our date try out multiple locations while on the date.

In conclusion, we realized how difficult it can be for a handicapped person to “simply” go on a date with someone. Due to not being wheelchair users ourselves and taking a observing-position on the matter, we probably missed a few difficulties a handicapped person might face. However, we did our best to look at all the positives and negatives within our total-date-environments, and it forced us to think about how we could play a role in being more accommodating and critically think about which businesses and spaces we choose engage with.