Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Does anyone ever get tired of fighting for your rights that we are entitled to, for wheelchair access to public places? I know this is just one of many things that the American with Disabilities Act covers, but we all know that the entire country is not wheelchair accessible.

After 15 years, I still try to be nice when I talk to people about how they can better improve wheelchair access such as a bathroom in a restaurant or even handicap parking, but after a while it get’s tiring. I have never sued anyone over wheelchair access issues. Instead I try to make suggestions and work with them, rather than just bark at them and say FIX IT OR I WILL SUE YOU! I just try to remember to “treat other people as I would want to be treated,” but it doesn’t always work. Today is a perfect example how frustrating it can be to fight for my rights. I live in Washington State and it was time to renew my tabs on my car, so to make it easy I went online paid the fee and chose the option pick them up at a location that was easy for me instead of paying to have them mailed.

So here is what happened when I went to pick the tabs. I pulled into the handicap parking spot located right in front of the licensing agency, got my wheelchair out locked the car and sat there thinking where’s the ramp? I looked for a ramp and didn’t see one anywhere. I looked around the parking lot, but stopped because the parking lot was not paved well, there were big speed bumps and there were lot’s of cars pulling in and out. So I sat there contemplating what to do and looked at the curb in front of me and thought I would test out my wheelchair skills. I use a manual wheelchair so I occasionally will pop down curbs, but I am not very good at going up them. So I found the lowest part of the curb, got my momentum going and popped up the curb. I usually don’t like doing curbs forward because I feel like I could fall out of my wheelchair because of my balance. I made it up the curb safely, but did feel a little like I could have catapulted out of my wheelchair. I sat there thinking all of this just to pick up my license plate tabs, heck I should have just paid the extra shipping to have it mailed to my house.

So, I go inside and very smiley and politely asked the lady behind the desk why there was no ramps, and she said she didn’t know because they don’t own the property. I told her about my dilemma and she couldn’t have cared less. All of a sudden she remembered there were ramps on both ends of the plaza. I asked her for the property manager’s phone number and she was happy to comply and give it to me. I got my tabs, went out the door and went to the opposite end of the plaza to find the ramp, meanwhile my car was right in front of me and the plaza is a long building. I went all the way to the end of the plaza and there was no ramp. Instead of a ramp the sidewalk just met the pavement of the parking lot because it evened out on the slope of the hill. So, I go through the parking lot, avoiding cars, slowly rolling over the large speed bumps, and got back in my car. At this point I was frustrated, but waited a few minutes to gather my thoughts and called the property manager. I was very polite on the phone to the property manager and explained my situation. I told them I like to educate people and make suggestions about accessibility and how they can make accommodations very easily. I first suggested that they put a sign up to say where the “ramps” were located. Putting up a sign was only a suggestion for a temporary fix, but said they should add an ADA wheelchair ramp next to the handicap spots- then I started hearing yelling. The property manger was yelling, “I don’t have time for this, I don’t have the money, and the economy is bad.” and they told me to sue them if I wasn’t happy. I kept my cool, asked them to calm down and why can’t they just put up a sign? Then click! That was the end of the conversation because they hung up on me. So in this case being nice didn’t get me anywhere, and when I say nice I was being extremely polite! I could have screamed back at them, but I didn’t. So, my question is now what? Do I file a complaint with? Do I seek out a lawyer? Do I keep calling them while still remaining nice about it? There are many things that I could do, but for right now all I can say is, I am just too tired to deal with it and won’t be going back there next year.

Don’t get me wrong I know how lucky I am to have these rights because of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I just want to be proactive and help improve access for wheelers. I have heard terrible stories from around the world of what it is like for people with disabilities, and I know I am very fortunate. I just want to improve my own access and that is why I am asking for suggestions and feedback for my situation and would like to know what you have done in these kinds of situations?

Tammy Wilber
~Tired of Fighting for my Rights~

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