Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Gainesville accessibility stories

Since I wrote about the biker behavior in Gainesville few things have changed. They still block wheelchair ramps and lock their wheels to just about anything in sight that resembles a railing. The Hippodrome Theatre, which I wrote about in the opinion piece published by the Sun decided to put an engraved plaque with a warning that the locks on any bike tied to either side of the wheelchair ramp will be cut. It doesn't mean that people pay any attention to it or that any locks actually got cut. All it means is that there is a sign. It's amazing to me how I can go there every week for my Wednesday serving of alternative cinema and I'll find more bikes piled up on each side of the ramp, on the inside and outside of it than there are people watching the movie. They're not here to get any kind of culture- they tie their bikes and skip over to a trendy hipster restaurant Boca Fiesta a few steps away.It gets dangerous- even if the bike is tied to the outside of the ramp the pedals and handle are still sticking in, meaning they take up space and I can get stuck or hurt by them, especially going down.But one thing has changed. The young crew working at the box gets really upset when people leave their bikes like that without a care. They know me, they see me every week and they see how the ramp serves a purpose. Blocking it becomes a real problem for a person with a name and a face. It's not an empty rule- it's my safety and my access that's at stake here. A week ago, the creativity of bikers with new ways to obstruct my path reached new highs- or should I say in this case- new lows. Someone decided to tie their bikes almost standing up, with the front wheel reaching over the railing and into the ramp. As I didn't feel safe, I told the box office clerk. Genuinely concerned, he decided to find the grinder to cut the lock. Before he did, he lifted and moved the bike so I could go home. He also told me of an exchange he had a few days prior. She was trying to tie her bike to the railing like they always do, and he told her that she's not allowed. She then tried to argue that her bike wouldn't be taking that much space at all plead and reason with him. I don't care, he ended abruptly- this  ramp is for wheelchairs. They don't get it- he said. They may not get it. But I'm happy that he does. See we may quote the rules, we may scare people with the law, I may even sue if I get injured. But people will never understand it and be considerate until they see that it actually serves a purpose. That there are people in wheelchairs that are trying to get in but can't. That same week I was at at The Top a popular Gainesville restaurant. They have male and female restrooms usually with some waiting time involved and one unisex cabin for wheelchairs. Whenever I go there, it's usually occupied and never by a person in a wheelchair. It's just convenient. But it's the only restroom that I can use in there. As I waited for my turn I asked the girl that was leaving it if there was a reason she used that one. 'There was a line to the others" she answered honestly. To her it was just another restroom. She didn't want to wait, so she decided to skip the line. She didn't know or care to think that accessible sign was there for a reason. And I use it because I don't have a choice. And there are conditions that require  getting to it pretty quickly. When I went there again that night I noticed that somebody vomited on the toilet seat. As I went to get the staff to clean it, somebody already went it. When it was my turn again, a girl was banging on the door for as long as I was inside. 'I thought you were changing or having sex in there'- she said-'Rude people hold them up all the time', ' But you're OK'. I didn't need her permission, as the bathroom was designed for me and not for her. It's amazing that she didn't get the irony or was shamed into going to a regular bathroom. So yes I did it. I said "I hope you don't have to use one of these for real one day"

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