Saturday, August 17, 2013

Accessibility vs. Accommodation

Accessibility is what we should expect to be ready for us without asking or planning ahead. It can be provided by following an easy to implement set of standards and practices that make "adaptation" unnecessary. We can benefit from accessibility without announcing or explaining our disabilities.

Accommodation is for adaptations that can't be anticipated or standardized. They are different for each individual. Although we should expect there to be a general willingness to accommodate us wherever we go, we can't expect actual, specific accommodations unless and until we ask for them. We do have to announce, and may have to explain our disabilities a bit in order to get accommodations.

Accessibility is the baseline of equal service, and accommodation is the second step to take when accessibility alone isn't enough.

Wedding Toast

I attended a wedding yesterday of a fantastic young man and woman … the bride being my brother's wife's daughter. The ceremony and reception were both held at a fairly high-end Vermont resort, and apart from the fact that the festivities themselves were beautiful, the accessibility and accommodations were really very good.

In fact, there's not a whole lot to report, except for some small details so I'll just bullet point them:

• When I checked in to get my hotel room on Thursday, the desk clerk showed me on a facility map where my room would be and how I could drive my car around to reach it. He said he'd have someone meet me over there to get my luggage out of my car. Before I could even get halfway there, the guy flagged me down and said they had reassigned my room to a location they figured would be easier for me during my stay … closer to the action so to speak. Plus, the room as an upgrade, for which they did not charge me. They did this without asking me. People with disabilities usually say that people should ask us before diving in to help, but in this case, I appreciated it.

• There were a lot of small changes in level throughout the resort, but they all were either without steps at all, or steps with accompanying ramps.

• The only bona fide barrier I saw was at the place where guests exited the reception hall to walk across to where the outdoor ceremony was held. There were three steps. I don't especially need a ramp for just a couple of steps, but I did notice it. The steps were pretty shallow though, and I'll bet that they have a temporary ramp available if alerted in advance.

• The bride's grandmother was there using a wheelchair most of the time. She and hurt her knee recently. From where I was sitting for the ceremony, I couldn't see how she handled the steps, and I think she may even have walked "down the aisle" on someone's arm. I might have been offended on her behalf if she were a full-time wheelchair user, but somehow the fact that her impairment was temporary made me think differently about it. For a temporarily disabled person, I guess I'm more understanding of the desire to shed the trappings of impairment and make a "normal" appearance in situations where everyone is watching.

• I didn't notice any ableist social blunders at all, from either the guests or the staff.

I really think that when it comes to big, complex social events like weddings, a relative lack of small annoyances has just as much positive effect as the absence of major barriers and offenses.