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.