Disabilities Act fruitful
A first visit to Huntsville Hospital last week reminds me of how important it is for public buildings to provide easy access to visitors whose mobility is limited to the use of a wheelchair or walker.
After circling the massive health care complex and not finding handicap parking, we opted to settle for the adjoining parking deck. We were lucky to find a parking space near an exit/elevator sign. After unloading and walking to the exit, we discovered that we’d have to use a stairway to reach the elevator. After not finding another elevator sign on that floor, we returned to the car and moved to the next level. It had a “special needs” parking area and access to an elevator but we were told it was reserved for emergencies. Thankfully, we did learn that we could reach a “public use” elevator on the next higher level.
Finally, we reached the lobby and sought help at the information booth to locate the patient we were there to visit. Unfortunately, we were directed to the elevator that was the longest distance from our destination. This required me to do a lot more walking with a walker than what I was used to doing after refusing to borrow a complimentary wheelchair in the lobby. My situation worsened by the fact that the patient’s room had only two chairs to share among four visitors, and the floor didn’t have a waiting room for visitors who needed a place to sit down.
I can remember when public officials and business owners simply overlooked the need for accommodations for handicapped people. Street curbs prevented those people with motorized chairs from using sidewalks, anyone confined to a wheelchair or walker couldn’t enter the old Hartselle Post Office because of its high steps, and handicapped shoppers were denied access to many local businesses.
That is no longer the case for the most part thanks to the passage of the Americans for Disabilities Act. While it had its share of detractors at the beginning, most of us will agree that it was much needed and in making life a lot easier and more enjoyable to those individuals with handicaps.
Clif Knight is a staff writer for the Hartselle Enquirer.