Sunday, September 27, 2015

The ballad of the wheelchair lift: Best do nothing

I've had a stressful week. The next didn't look much better either, so I decided to get a load off my mind by seeing a movie on campus. Double feature Saturday. Get some popcorn -and none of that healthy stuff- and relax for a few hours with a bottle of a cherry cola. I really needed a break. When I get to the cinema room at the student union building, the first thing I notice is that the lift that takes me over the stairs and to the door is all the way up. At first I think that they have another patron in a wheelchair, or- what they occasionally do- they were bringing some equipment down. I try to get it down but the button isn't working.  I see a man from the catering services rolling a cart with dishes around to see if perhaps the door at the top is slightly open. It happens sometimes, it won't run until it's tightly closed. He opens it, slams it, goes in, tries to run it from the inside, yup, not working. The projectionist comes out, plays with the buttons for a bit, can't get it to work, calls the building manager. The building manager comes up, looks at the lift, tries to operate it by going in, but and again- it's not working. Then he remembers that there was something about it being broken the day before. But they "wrote it up" or they called it in. When would it be fixed? Coming here on Sunday wouldn't be exactly ideal for me, because the buses don't really run, but the movies only play for one more day. But no, not Sunday. Next week. Perhaps they can get someone out there as early as Monday. (Here's to hoping). The building manager is apologizing, but he doesn't know what to do. A few stairs became the impossible barrier. I came here for nothing. I won't get to see the 2 pm movie or the one at seven. or anything on Sunday. I knew he wouldn't suggest that a group of students lift me up, because everyone is so afraid of liability, should something happen to me. Reitz is after all the building where I was told by the staff to go wait in the staircase on the second floor  during a fire alarm evacuation and nobody cared to help me down. Thank God it wasn't a real fire. He then suggested I could peek through the other entrance. I wouldn't be able to go in, because it had three small stairs down, but I could see, from the side - perhaps 1/3 of the screen. And I could hear it. I guess hearing it is the most important thing about watching a movie. And again, three tiny steps got in my way of getting in. I even thought of crawling out of my chair and just getting into the room. If only there was a portable ramp they could put over the stairs. The solution was that simple!  But that didn't happen, the building manager apologized and I was really upset and I said, "Thank you, I wish I could say it's OK, but it's really not".

 Here's what really upsets me about that whole situation. It's not that I couldn't get into one movie, that one time. It's that it became perfectly acceptable for something labeled "accessible entrance" to be out of commission not for an hour, not for a day, but at least three days, and nobody sees it as something essential, something that an entire group of people needs and uses to make use of a campus facility. Wait until Monday, Monday-if we're lucky, maybe longer, and nobody seems to see it as a priority or is looking for any solution. Perhaps it will be fixed Monday, but what good does it do me if there's no movie that day? It's a upsetting that all they can do is "write it up" like a broken light bulb or an electric door opener, things that you can typically afford getting to to when you get to them. It's also disappointing that "accessible entrance" as the stick on the lift says, is routinely used to transport speakers and equipment. Something meant for people - exposed to a greater chance of breaking down. So much for disability access at UF. It's event like this that cut Florida Disability Access and Awareness Foundation's work for us. Because we need the access. And definitely more awareness.

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