Sunday, September 15, 2013

What could go wrong.

A few weeks ago I shared a story bout how I got locked out, or perhaps locked in at the basement level of a garage next to a campus building that is undergoing construction. I ended having to roll up a very steep car ramp to get back to surface, because the elevator access to any other floor was shut down. I worked up quite a sweat pulling myself by whatever I could grab on to, fearing for my life, that at any point a car can come speeding at me or that because of the angle I flip or roll back down. All of this, because I was following a route appointed as the main access into the building. Now, a few weeks have passed since that traumatic experience. By the door through which I left they have now  put up a sign- "no handicapped parking  access after hours". The problem was, my incident didn't happen "after hours"- the building still had student programs going in full swing. There was no access to parking, if you will, during the hours. Additionally, while the notice now tells you to use some other exit to leave on another floor, it doesn't really tell you how to get back to the the same point via which you entered. Imagine for a second I have a car parked on that level. How do I get back? So many things can happen to me while I stroll around between cars in the parking garage. I could get injured, suffer trauma, even die. Somebody didn't really think this through. So much potential liability, that you can easily avoid by having a clear and straightforward access policy. So many things can go wrong. And then, I'm told "unofficially" to use the loading dock basement exit, the one the pedestrians are strongly advised not to use in the first place. And then- the mystery is solved. The night manager tells me he prefers to lock the access to the building early and he was never really told to do it. It's his own doing. He doesn't like to have  the kids practicing routines in the open halls on the other side- he says. He fears for the screens and equipment that may be stolen- he says. Now, I'm not exactly sure why his fears should be any greater if he keeps it open for another hour like he's supposed to. Whatever may have happened could have just as easily taken place at any point throughout the day. If there's a security issue with the building- address it with appropriate measures. Put a camera in. Have the night managers patrol it. Shutting access to what the signs outside point out to as "access to the building" is obviously not the way to go. It seems more convenient for him, a part of building he doesn't need to worry about. But it puts me at risk. And what he doesn't know is while his mind is at ease because that segment is tidy and clean and ready for the next day, had something happen to me, both him and his employer would be served with a negligence suit. It's not only himself he puts at risk by making his job easier, it's the university and by extension the state. And when I was locked out of the building and stuck on the lower level garage there was no way, but to risk and health to get out. I'm not particularly litigant when it comes to my own matters- I leave that mode of thinking for my clients. I'd rather educate and show people why what they're doing exposes them. Don't  be enforcing  your own policies.  And I'm not picky- if you have another way for me to go show me. But there has to be a way to have me leave the garage safely, if I can't get back into the building. Many people think of ADA access as a pain - but it serves a purpose- and often more immediate one than noble cause of inclusion. It gets in their way, it gives them more work, but it keeps me safer. There's a reason for those rules. People of ADA guidelines and standards as something they have to comply with because they can't stop and think of why they're there. Put an actual person behind it. What can happen if I'm locked in a parking garage and the only place I can go to is back to the building that  has since locked down. I can risk my life rolling up that ramp. What would happen if I wasn't able to pull myself up? I'd have to wait to morning to be rescued, no food, no water, no restroom, underground. My cell- long dead, doubtful I get service. My tablet- can't pick up a Wi-Fi signal. All I could do is wait for 8 hours- in  a basement. It seems to me that we rarely think of those what ifs- and something tells me that manager wouldn't be as eager to look for me as he was to lock it all down

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