Accessibility is a big deal to me. Not only because it affects me personally everywhere I go as I’m in a wheelchair, not only because it’s the right thing to include people rather than exclude them, but it is also the law. Florida regulations are often stricter than federal standards, but what good does that do? Is it fair that many businesses take those requirements more seriously than others, often at a great cost? And that doesn’t always mean money. I’ve known bar owners that eliminated certain amenities, because they couldn’t make them wheelchair accessible and they wanted to play fair and do the right thing, while others just wouldn’t be bothered You hear stories about lawyers that ride about town stopping at every small town shop and venue, nit picking at every little thing they’ve done wrong, every way they’re non- ADA compliant, threatening them they’ll get sued unless they pay up. I don’t know if people like that really exist or if it’s a myth. I do know that there are places that are not up to the code and the owners don’t seem to care much about it. Often, when you try to talk about it, in the friendliest fashion, say “You know, you really need to have a ramp to that new stage you’ve built” you get an attitude. And it’s completely unnecessary. But at that stage I have a choice- either I will stop hanging at that place all together or I’ll do something about it. And I really don’t ride around town looking for a fight. I don’t go into places searching for things wrong with them. But those regulations are there for a reason, and it’s not to make someone’s life difficult. It is so people like me and not me alone can use the establishment like any other patron. I don’t look for those things, they find me. I’m there like everybody else, just out to grab a drink, have dinner, sing a song. And I really don’t want to be ‘that guy’. You know, the person that shuts establishments down, gets them fined or otherwise in trouble. I’ve known someone who would go into bars with a clicker counting everyone inside to see if they were over capacity. He wasn’t really doing it it to be a pain. It’s a genuine fire hazard and safety concern and quite frankly, venue operators should have known better. It did get him banned from most places. That’s not really what I’m afraid of, but I’m not out there to spoil everyone’s time. Gainesville is a small town and I’m not looking for that kind of reputation. But mostly I have great interest in seeing local venues succeed. Because I’m part of this community and I believe we all should watch out for each other, especially in this economy. A lot of bar owners are my friends. Some level with me, saying yes we really shouldn’t have public on that stage and we were not planning on it [but we do]. It happened more than once. On the other hand it feels I’m more concerned with them than they are with me. What I want to do is establish a type of practice based on fairness and honesty and not gimmicks. And that’s why I’m conflicted. Because if nobody does anything, how will they ever learn? Yes, it’s the law, but I feel that until they realize that it’s simply the right thing to do rather than a hassle they need to deal with, they will always find ways to get around it. No one seems to question the fire or health code and why they’re there, yet for many people accessibility issues pose a problem. There is very little understanding of why certain things are standard and very little awareness of how the social benefits outweigh the costs. And that truly is the issue.