Thursday, March 14, 2019

Our Accessible Date: Audrey, Madeline, Jill

On a bright afternoon, with a measuring tape in tow, we traveled along Ninth St. with our imaginary date. The first thing we noticed was the uneven, cracked sidewalk. We also noticed that the sidewalk was narrow. Surely, it would be difficult for a wheelchair user to use this sidewalk, rolling over cracks and bumps, especially when students are changing classes and the streets become swamped with bodies hustling from one area of campus to another.
We walked and rolled all the way to the intersection of Ninth and Elm when we noticed that Campus Bar and Grill had a wheelchair ramp. The door met and exceeded the ADA door width requirement at 34 inches, so we decided to take our date there for a cocktail to start the night off.

After having a drink, we left Campus Bar and Grill and walked and rolled down Ninth St. to look for some grub. First, we thought that Main Squeeze sounded tasty so we measured their door to see if we could take our date inside. Main Squeeze’s door did technically meet the requirement with two extra inches to spare, but once we were inside we noticed other problems. The entrance to the door was a narrow hallway. When standing to hold the door for our date, there probably would not be enough room for us to stand while they passed through. Also, the tables in the dining area and the hallway in front of the cashier were very narrow. When we arrived it was not crowded, but we could easily imagine a scenario where the restaurant would be busy and it would be nearly impossible to maneuver around other people and roll a wheelchair through the narrow hallways without bumping into something or getting stuck.

We kept going on Ninth St. and decided to check out Yellow Dog Bookshop. Although their door was wide enough and they did have a ramp inside, we ran into the same problem of hallways being way too narrow. Also, there was a children’s nook in the back of the book store and the door frame was made narrower by a bookshelf that stuck out. This would prevent a wheelchair user from accessing the children’s book section whether they were browsing for a child or with a child. This aspect of the date impacted us because it made us think about the ways that our society imagines parenthood. It was as if wheelchair users were not imagined as parents when this book store was created.
Another restaurant we decided not to eat at was Broadway Brewery. At the front entrance, there was a large staircase and a sign that said “wheelchair access in rear alley.” We walked to the alley behind the entrance and the ground had limited pavement and was mostly a gravel road next to large city dumpsters. We decided that although the rear alley entrance was technically accessible, it was dehumanizing since it was next to large dumpsters and in a dark and graveled alley.
Close by though was Tellers, a restaurant we found to be accessible and much less awkward. The double doorway made plenty of room for our date. The tables were at a good height for a wheelchair user, and there was plenty of space between tables except for a few tables near the window. Also, the staff was very friendly when we explained why were taking photos and measuring! Friendly wait staff can be just as important in making a space feel accessible as table heights can.
For entertainment, our date and we agreed that we love vintage clothes. We headed to Maude Vintage, where the doorway exceeded the ADA requirement at 70 inches! Most of the aisles were plenty wide, but boxes and other stacked items narrow some of the passageways making them inaccessible for our date. Also, a lot of clothing hangs very high. Nonetheless, our date loved the store and we decided we wanted to head somewhere for privacy!
We decided to end the night at Aladdin Hookah lounge. At night, Aladdin is kept dark with great music, and tables along the wall with pillows and tapestries which creates a good atmosphere for some private time in public. The door meets the ADA requirement at 40 inches, and table heights are good for a wheelchair user. Chairs can easily be pulled aside for a wheelchair user.

Overall, our date went great. But we were discouraged by some many of the inaccessible aspects of our downtown. Dating requires more planning and more trial and error when one or more of the people use a wheelchair, but that doesn’t make dating any less fun or romantic! We hope more businesses downtown (and everywhere) will take accessibility into consideration not just as an afterthought, but as an exciting way to let everyone experience what they have to offer.

A Night on the Town: Alex, Jamie and Sabrina

To begin our date, we all started by going to Columbia’s favorite pizza spot, Pizza Tree! Since we live in different locations we decided to just meet at the restaurant. From the outside we immediately noticed that the main entrance was inaccessible because of a 3 step entrance. Also, if we were to come later in the evening the order window would be too high for someone or a group of individuals who were disabled to possibly order from the window. We did notice a side entrance that was accessible, however the door is not automatic which could cause problems for some people.

Due to it being True False, there was a surge of customers inside and the inside became very cramped. In order for the space to be accessible, Pizza Tree can't be too busy because the amount of people is an issue for one or more people with wheelchairs. As we were ordering, we found that the counters and signs for the pizza were a bit high for a person would be using a wheelchair. Ordering the pizza itself would be awkward and difficult for someone in a wheelchair because of its height and since the environment was very loud a person would have to speak very loud. Even when just grabbing your pizza it could be difficult because all the drinks and extra utensils are all cluttered near the pick-up counter.

The restroom area in Pizza Tree we noticed could be accessible, however it was tight. There were baby chairs and wet floor signs in the way the could be a barrier for people with wheelchairs. The bathroom itself was pretty accessible with a wide opening door and bars near the toilet. However, the paper towel machine and sink could be a little high for someone with a wheelchair, especially if they had mobility issues. Overall our dinner was somewhat accessible, but there were some problem areas that really could be inaccessible for multiple individuals living with disabilities.

For entertainment, we tried to instill as much spontaneity as a normal date would have. In order to do this, we waited to make exact plans until after we were at dinner which we soon realized was a choice that wouldn’t usually be made in an accessible date.
Our first stop was Sparky’s which was just right across the street from dinner. Similar to the other places that we had visited, the door entering into the shop was a heavy, pull door which would make it very difficult to open without assistance. Once we entered Sparky’s the space was fairly accessible. There was plenty of space to wait in line, even with a big crowd, and the tables were a good height with chairs that were easy to remove. On the other side in order to test out flavors, which is a big part of the Sparky’s experience, someone who uses a wheelchair would need assistance since the countertop is pretty high. Although the space was open, there are definitely steps that Sparky’s could take to make the overall experience more accessible.

Next, we decided to go to the bookstore down the street called Skylark. The door was similar to the others as it was a heavy, pull door. As soon as you walked in the space opened up. The first floor was very spacious which made it easy to move around between the bookshelves. There were labels to describe the books at all different heights and the ones on the taller parts of the bookshelves were slanted down to where they could be seen at shorter heights. However, an entire part of the bookstore is inaccessible because there is a set of stairs. All of the reading nooks and tables were up the stairs, so for a date there weren’t any spaces to sit and talk. It also limits the books available to only those on the first floor, thus limiting the full experience of the location once again. Overall, it was not a great space to go for an accessible date.

Our last stop before quiet time was Hitt Records which was about 4 blocks away from Skylark. The overall ambiance is perfect for making a date feel more intimate without it becoming too uncomfortable. However, the space at Hitt Records was not accessible. With lights all over the place and multiple songs playing at the same time, the space could be very overwhelming for people with light or sound sensitivity. The aisles between the records were very narrow, so narrow that even if a wheelchair could fit, no one would be able to pass by and you wouldn’t be able to turn around. The space that would be perfect to cozy up and listen to music is just one step up off the floor, making it inaccessible. Additionally, all of the movies were up one flight of stairs, limiting the space and experience even further.

It seems that a lot of the typical date spots in downtown Columbia are not very accessible. Even if you are able to get in through the door, you aren’t able to get the full experience. It also turns out that spontaneity is not a luxury that everyone has.

After we were full and tired from all the places we went, we were ready for some time to unwind a bit. We decided to go to one of the group member’s homes which was relatively close to downtown. The first thing we noticed was that the route we, as walking people, would normally take was not accessible. For example, the shortest routes usually mean using alleys or crossing streets in places where there are no sidewalks. With gravel-laden, narrow alleys and curbs, our travel time was a bit longer than what if might have normally taken. It was not a huge deal though, because there were still accessible crosswalks at each intersection we encountered. Once we made it to the house, there was a glaring issue. There was no accessible entrance. If someone who uses a wheelchair were on our date with us, the date would’ve ended at that moment. For the purposes of the assignment, though, we decided to proceed and assess the inside of the space, where we really just found more issues. Many of the tables and counters were not at an accessible height. This could be a huge issue even on a date because it would limit the experience. What if we wanted to cook together? The counter is not at an accessible height to do that. Many hallways were quite narrow, and there is even a staircase leading up to one of the bedrooms. But the biggest issue was arguably the bathroom.

The bathroom is so incredibly small, that even if you’re not a wheelchair user, you have to be pretty small and thin to fit inside because of the way the door, counter, and toilet are situated. Overall, the house was not accessible. For us, this emphasized the inaccessibility of housing in general. The home we visited was an older one, and generally older homes are less accessible. They are also usually cheaper. This means if you need accessible housing, you’ll oftentimes need to pay more. And that doesn’t even account for the housing of friends or partners. What if you don’t want to be at your house for every “movie night” or every “homework date”?

So for us, the assignment really highlighted a lot of issues in our society that we have the privilege of rarely thinking about. We got to see firsthand that because of how society is constructed, certain groups of people can not access huge parts. This shines through when going on dates, but also when getting to places you need to go, with finding housing, and with employment. Another huge takeaway is that really the whole issue lies within society and within the ableist system we all exist in. So that means the whole solution really lies within society as well, and we got to see that. The record store can remove the items which cause such a stimulating space. Buildings can install elevators, homes can have ramps. These things can be done because disability is not the issue- it’s the environment.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Wheelchair Accessible Date: Ellie Stitzer, Ashley Morgan, and Shoshana Jackson

Our group ventured out to downtown Columbia last week to plan out the perfect accessible date for the wheelchair-using person-of-our-dreams. These are our reflections on the experience. 


First Stop: Shakespeare's Pizza 

We decided that we would plan to meet our date at Shakespeare's Pizza, a CoMo classic. Shakespeare's is overall a pretty accessible place (and it should be as it was just recently completely rebuilt). Ordering and picking up the food could be a potential challenge, as both counters are quite tall, but there are some ways around this. The employee could come around the counter to exchange money, hand over the receipt, or give the wheelchair-user the pizza or alternatively take it to our table for us. Or, if there is a non-wheelchair user on this date, they could help with anything that might be out of reach. The same could be said for reaching utensils, plates, or soda that may be out of reach. Most of the tables in the restaurant are accessible for a wheelchair-user, although there were a few booths with small steps that would make them inaccessible. 

Another thing our group discussed is how the bar area would be too tall for a wheelchair-user to really access. This is the standard for bars. For Ellie, who is a wheelchair-user herself, the height is not really an issue because her wheelchair has the ability to raise up. However, many wheelchair-users (including people who use manual chairs) do not have this option. Also, the elevating feature is quite expensive and is not covered by insurance, so it is not an option for even many electric-wheelchair-users. 


Second Stop: Columbia Art League 

For the entertainment portion of the evening, our group decided to go to Columbia Art League to continue the theme of a unique, low-cost, local-staple filled evening. The Art League is located directly next to Shakespeare's, making it very easy to get to.  There were no stairs so there was no struggle upon entry, as soon as we entered, the two workers there at the time kindly greeted us. The Art League is small, but overall everything is spaced out in such a way that wheelchair-users could easily get around. There is a big, wide ramp that leads to the second level of the gallery. Some art may hang a bit too high up for a wheelchair-user to be able to really get up close to and appreciate, but for the most part everything is easily visible. 

Also, FYI, these cookies are an art installation, NOT to eat (which we learned too late). 


Last Stop: Ellie's Apartment 

If this date is going as well as we hope it would, our last destination would be Ellie's apartment. To get to her apartment, we had a few options: 

Option One was to walk from the Art League all the way to the apartment - a 30 minute, 1.4 mile long walk. Hey, if the weather's nice and our date was up for it, this walk might be a nice time to keep getting to know each other and enjoy Mizzou's beautiful campus. But, if it's freezing cold out like it was last week, or our date was not able to do such a long trek, this isn't a great option. 

Option Two was to walk 10 minutes to the shuttle pick up across the street from the Student Center and then ride the shuttle for approximately 10 minutes to the shuttle drop off that is located directly across the street from the apartment complex. This is a pretty good option, but it's only available until 7:45pm (apparently people who rely on public transportation don't have night lives?). 

Option Three is maybe a little bit cheating for this assignment since it's not technically "public transportation", but Ellie just happens to own a wheelchair accessible van! If both people on this date were wheelchair users, this would not be a viable option because there is only one space for a wheelchair to fit. If not though, this would cut the travel time from the Art League down to only 6 minutes. 


From this point, things are more or less smooth sailing. There are no steps to get into the apartment and there is plenty of space for a wheelchair user (or two) to get around. 

Our group wanted to highlight this stop especially to show that whoever the wheelchair-using heartthrob is in this scenario, they probably have some expertise on accessibility. Ellie has her own set up and a way to do things, like getting from place to place and transferring out of her chair, that works for her. Her apartment is set up with accessible technology that is specific to her access needs. Another wheelchair-user may have a completely different way of doing things and a different set up. This is where Mia Mingus's idea of "access intimacy" comes into play, and how much access intimacy is prevalent between the two people on this date could potentially determine if there is a future in the relationship. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Our Accessible Date

For our accessible date we decided to meet at Liv's apartment. She lives at Orr Street Lofts on E Walnut Street. We chose her apartment because it's in downtown
 Columbia and there would be less walking around and it is easily accessible.
Her apartment is also wheelchair accessible. 

After meeting at Liv's apartment we then had to decide where we wanted to eat. Since it was very cold out side we decided to eat someplace close so that we could minimized our time outside in the cold. We had to also choose someplace that would be wheelchair accessible. We decided to go eat at Fuzzy's. It was only a seven minute walk from Liv's apartment and is wheelchair accessible.

We took this route to get to Fuzzy's because it was the shortest time. The sidewalks in Columbia are not well maintained and we noticed a lot of cracks and snow/ice on the ground which could be difficult for a wheelchair user.

Fuzzy's had a flat doorway that a wheelchair could easily fit through, however there is wooden barriers to navigate the line through that would be hard to go through for a wheelchair. The counter is also a bit high for someone to order at in a wheelchair. There is a lot of tables for someone to move a chair for a wheelchair to be seated at. Another downside is that you have to pick up your food from the counter so you would need to get an abled bodied person to pick up the food or ask the employees to bring your food to your table.

After dinner we needed something fun to do. SilverBall is a bar/arcade that is right next door to Fuzzy's, so in order to save time and not walk outside any longer than needed, we decided to go next door for drinks and games. A problem with SilverBall is that there is a platform on the main floor with a lot of games that makes it impossible for someone in a wheelchair to access. There could easily be a ramp to get up but there is not. There is also a whole other floor but there was only steps to gain access to it. 
While we could only have access to part of the first floor, there was still a lot of games we could play. There was table hockey, air hockey, crane machines, and shooting games.

After some games and drinks we wanted some private time. We decided to go back to Liv's apartment because she had an elevator and the rest of her building and room was very wheelchair accessible. Her entry way into her apartment was very wide and there were not obstacles inside her apartment to navigate through so having a nice relaxing night hanging out would be very possible.

This imaginary date really opened our eyes about how even if someplace is wheelchair accessible, there's a bunch of tiny things you don't think about that can be hard for someone who is not abled bodied to do. And while Columbia is somewhat wheelchair accessible, it is not good enough.