Saturday, 15 June 2013

Indeed not perfect

This is a sort of continuation of my last post where I made some minor cribs about the `accessible hotel room' I was at on the California coast. Today, I want to elaborate on this general crib, but this time, it is about a motel in New Jersey where I spent two nights. One of my more favourite cousins whom I wanted to spend time with very sweetly decided to reserve a room in a motel not far from her home so that (a) I could be spared the pain of climbing some 14 steps to the bedrooms on the second floor (by American parlance), (b) be more comfortable in the `accessible' motel room where I would be spared the stairs, and have a more comfortable bathroom at my disposal.

The idea of harping on this same theme is this: earlier, when I visited different institutes in India whose levels of accessibility were very poor, I would make a point of broadcsting these inadequacies in the hope that this might lead to the institutes taking appropriate remedial measures; and this aggressive tactic sometimes had some desired results. The scenario is similar here too. Only substitute motel owners/state authorities for institute administration/appropriate arm of Government.

Coming back to my New Jersey motel, first of all, the front door was one of those affairs which swings shut automatically as soon as you open the door and stop 

holding it. If I didn't have my wife with me, I could have neither got into nor out of the room; talk of fire hazards, and universal design!

As soon as you enter the room, you see two large queen-size beds, with just enough space to squeeze a table and two chairs on one side, like this:

And coming to the shower, there was the ubiquitous bath-tub which you have to climb into after getting your legs over an almost two-foot high side of the tub, thus:

If the last manoeuvre was dicey for the mobility challenged, the next is enough to drive to tears those for whom motions needing delicate/subtle hand control. To make this clearer, let me enlarge a part of the above picture and focus on the the shower/tap toggle mechanism that appears as a thin short object above the tap and below the knob regulating water flow/temperature. In order to to change from shower to tap, you need to grab the centre of this  object - which is barely 2 mm wide and protrudes barely 1 mm from the centre of this object - and pull it out. Needless to say, I couldn't do it and had to ask my wife to come and do it for me.
After having negotiated the shower with a little help from my friends, it was time to get dressed and go to the lobby for some breakfast and coffee. Imagine the fun an unattended wheelchair user will have navigating to that breakfast in this lobby:
As far as I can make out, the grip bars in the toilet are the only accessible feature of the room.; and there is no way that such a person could spend a night alone in this room. 

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Almost, but not quite, perfect

I have – as you may know if you have been reading the recent posts in my blog – been in the US for the past few weeks. And I have been enjoying various types of freedom that have been denied me for a while now – driving around in cars with an automatic shift which involves no work for my left (and `game') foot, driving around campuses and the streets of the smaller towns on a rented scooter (of the sort praised rapturously in youtube videos by the late Rahul Cherian), finding ramps almost wherever there were steps. In short, I have been basking in the sort of Utopia that the underprivileged PWD of India have been craving and campaigning for – tactile pavements with cutaways to enable easy transition to roads, pedestrian crossings where you can cross without running the risk of getting killed. Will India, the allegedly largest democracy and superpower of the future, ever get to this stage?

But even in this allegedly greatest democracy, all is not well. At this large plush hotel (on the Pacific coast, with swimming pools, jacuzzis, almost anything you can think of), they had only two accessible rooms, one of which did not have a roll-in shower and you could only shower by climbing into a tub that necessitated getting your legs up and across a two-foot high side. The toilets of many houses have no grab bars, only slick marble-like tiles where taking a sliding toss like a baseball player is an entirely likely scenario even for the able bodied. No wonder so many 60 plus people have broken hip bones.

While our democracy continues to deny the rights of certain minorities like PWDs and Dalits, theirs does equally ridiculous things such, for instance, as a Texan court recently acquitting a person who had shot a paid escort for walking out on him without having sex with him even though he had paid her. The justification for the verdict was: Texas law allows people to use deadly force to recover property during a nighttime theft.