Monday, May 19, 2008

A Question About ADA

"The Americans with Disabilities Act gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, State and local government services, and telecommunications."

The above is a brief statement about what The Americans with Disabilities Act is intended to do. On the surface, it is a noble plan. In reality, does it really work? I don't think so.

The visible acts of compliance deal only with one disability - mobility impairment. There is no shortage of handicap parking spaces around. And, park in one of those without that blue tag and you are guaranteed a ticket with a hefty fine. And all public restrooms are required to have at least one handicap equipped stall. Again, beware of the lady with the cane if you are in "her" stall. Never mind the fact that all the others were full when you entered the restroom. Then there is preferential treatment in the lines at amusement parks. Why do those in wheelchairs and their accompanying parties get to move to the front of the line? They are more comfortable than those who have to stand in line because they can. Stores have to be arranged so that the aisles are wheelchair accessible. I do realize that all the shelves are not reachable from a sitting position.

I do believe that mobility impaired individuals need special accommodations in certain situations, but they seem to be the only ones who get it. Let's talk about those with vision and hearing problems. Aside from the braille on the lid of your cup at McDonald's and on elevator signs, how often do you notice accommodations for individuals with such disabilities?

There are special tables in restaurants for those in wheelchairs. How many times have you seen a large print or Braille menu in a restaurant?

Churches must follow ADA accessibility requirements for seating people in wheelchairs. How many times have you seen a large print or Braille bulletin? Have you seen someone signing a sermon recently?

How about ordering at fast food restaurants. The counters must be low enough for someone in a wheelchair to reach but the menus are not readable by someone who is visually impaired.

Have you been to a theater production that offers large print programs or offers sign interpretation of the show? Probably not, but there are special places reserved for those in wheelchairs.

I did some checking on why such accommodations are not required to make public places more accessible to the visually impaired. Basically it comes down to the fact that if there is someone around who can read you the menu, or the price tag, then the institution or business is not required to provide materials to you. Lets get real. It is hard enough to get your ice tea refilled in most restaurants. Do you really think your server is going to read you the menu?

One of the funniest things I think I have ever seen is the screen that pops up on ATM machines that says, "If you would like to proceed hearing voice commands, press Enter now." What dumb ass came up with this? You would have to be able to see the screen in the first place to "press Enter."

I think that as individuals we have come a long way in how we interact with those who are disabled. Most people are not defined by their disability. But out in the world, we have a long way to go. We have made progress for those in wheelchairs. Let's do some of the same for those who are visually and hearing impaired.

I will have to give the gas companies an A+ on making their signage readable for the visually impaired. I can see that posting of $3.72 from way off. However, this is not much help to me since I can't drive because I am legally blind. I would much rather be able to see the menu next time I go out to eat.