Sunday, July 1, 2007

Wheelchair accessibility

I went to Baltimore this last weekend with a friend of mine who happens to be in a wheelchair. He has a conversion van with a lift so that he can be taken places. Because of the distance from our state of residence to Baltimore, we got a hotel. He is a huge Orioles fan and so we thought it would be fun to stay at one of the hotels that are right beside the stadium since we were going to two games and it would make it easier before and after games. So we get to the hotel and there is valet parking, but of course the garage is only large enough the allow vehicles which are 6'8" or under to enter and his van is around 8' high. We park in the unloading zone, check in and I take the stuff up to the room and get him situated, since I am not sure about the parking situation with the van. I had already moved the van out of the way of the unloading zone where it wouldn't block traffic. I go downstairs hoping to be able to just leave the van where it is even though there are signs that say no parking, but I am thinking that since the van will not fit in the garage maybe they will let us this time. I talk to the parking valet and he says it is not in his way, but that I have to talk to the manager. I no more than say that is my van and he says I have to move it (quite rudely). I explain that my friend is in a wheelchair and we need access to the van and that it is out of the way. He tells me he will have to have it towed if it is left there as it is in a tow away zone. I politely ask him where I can park the van where it will be close. He suggests that I move it to a lot that is nearby for one of the smaller arenas in the area. This does not work as with other lots where you cannot leave vehicles over night and so after an hour and a half of driving around Baltimore, I finally find a lot over by the Inner Harbor where I can leave the van overnight.

The point of this is twofold, first and quickly, I was nice throughout the entire conversation with the manager. I didn't scream or cuss or threaten or anything. I listened to him, I tried to explain my points and then when he was adamant I asked for his help, all very politely. I realize now that was a mistake. I should have screamed and cussed and threatened to sue the pants off of him and the entire Marriott chain. He may have given in this way, he may not have, but at least there is probably a better chance that he would have given in if I was causing a ruckus. And whether he had given in or not, I am sure that at some point he would have referred to me as an asshole or jerk or whatever, but why does it seem that those people who are the most obnoxious, annoying, loud mouthed jerks always seem to get things done. We say that we want people to be polite and that you get more by being nice, but it doesn't always seem to work that way.

Ok so on to my second point, how is this hotel, and hell I saw a lot of hotels who had underground garages that were not accessible for conversion vans, able to deny parking to people in wheelchairs. They have to have accessible rooms and elevators and ramps and even automated doors so that they do not discriminate against individuals with a disability, but they do not have to have parking. That makes no sense to me, so I went to the website on the Americans with Disabilities Act and this phrase seems to sum it up for me:

i) Denial of participation

It shall be discriminatory to subject an individual or class of individuals on the basis of a disability or disabilities of such individual or class, directly, or through contractual, licensing, or other arrangements, to a denial of the opportunity of the individual or class to participate in or benefit from the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of an entity.

This hotel and others like it are denying individuals with a van for those in a wheelchair not only the ability to park at their hotel, but also the valet service. Now I can understand not being able to park in the garage as there are certain restrictions, but the hotel should have to have alternative accommodations for special circumstances. We did call the corporate headquarters of Marriott and were told basically oh well not our problem, the parking garage is not owned by Marriott(meanwhile their guests are the only ones allowed in this garage) and parking on the street would get me towed. I remind you, I was not parked on the street I was parked on Marriott property in an out of the way part of the unloading zone for the hotel.

I guess I learned my lesson. Corporations are worthless asshats (yeah ok so i knew that one already but still) and being nice gets you nowhere.

1 comment:

Tengrain said...

I do a lot of ADA compliance as part of my job, and I can tell you that moments like yours are not rare.

Until/unless you have a need, it is nearly impossible to understand what the "other-abled" have to go through to just do normal, everyday stuff.

Great post - really great stuff.

Best regards,