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  • Vivian Volz

ADA! Hooray!

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

I hear from the Instagram grapevine that today is a day for celebrating 25 years of the ADA. So it's the perfect day for a quick post about my experience as a temporarily disabled architect.

Due to a ski accident this winter, I've just undergone knee surgery. I'm walking around on two crutches and my right leg is sporting a long-leg hinged and lockable knee brace. My biggest challenge is the temptation to ditch one crutch:

A red California temporary disabled person parking placard.
A temporary accomodation

I'm forever trying to carry something in my right hand or move a chair, but that's forbidden. (Those of you who know me are aware of how frustrating it is not to be able to carry my own full teacup!) That's all me, though. Let's talk about architecture.

My second biggest challenge is architectural: doors with too-aggressive closers. For a person new to crutches or even just forbidden to bear any weight on the injured leg, these doors can be impassible without help. Even my doctor's brand new office has a door on the patient restroom that has no delay in the open position! I got the door open, but didn't have time to get my body into the swing (so to speak!) before it came crashing back past me. Which brings us back to the two-crutch rule: I could do it with one crutch, but that's not allowed. I can do it if I'm willing to throw my shoulder into the path of the onrushing door, but how hard will it hit me? I'm sure I will figure out how to use a crutch as a doorstop; that will probably happen about week 4, right before I'm declared crutch-free. So I have a renewed appreciation for a properly adjusted closer.

By the way: Stairs are not my problem. I will take stairs instead of a ramp if I have a choice. Sure, an elevator is easier still, but since I'm not confined to a wheelchair, this is not a necessity for me. Not everyone with a disability is in a wheelchair. Bob Borson has an excellent post on that aspect of accessibility. Apparently he and I share a need to carry awkward beverages, but let's just say our methods differ.

My third biggest challenge is not being allowed to drive, so I'm learning all kinds of things about ADA provisions for transit. I'm lucky enough to live in a neighborhood with excellent transit, so the equivalent facilitation for the passengers with disabilities is excellent, too. On Vivalon Rides (a Paratransit service), I can get anywhere in Marin County that's within 3/4 of a mile of a bus line, as long as I call ahead to get on the schedule. I think what surprised me most about this part of the ADA is that I have just as much right to go to lunch on Whistlestop as I have to go to the doctor's office. There's no prioritizing certain trips; it's first-called, first served. I could plan to go to get a mani-pedi, or even a martini, even if it would make the next caller wait longer for a more necessary trip. My civil rights are protected. We are all equal.

ADA is civil rights legislation, after all. I'm only temporarily protected by it, but I'm seeing its breadth from this perspective. I'm a little more inclined to be grateful that my local muffin shop is getting an accessible entrance, instead of mad that they are closed during the renovation. I'm a whole lot more grateful for the low-power door operators that crop up at doors that don't have the proper ADA clearances: they sure beat getting my crutches tangled in the door! And I'll have just as much right to use that power-operated door as I do right now when I'm (finally!) carrying my own groceries. Nobody is more equal than I am.

Photo Credits:

ADA placard photograph by Vivian Volz, copyright 2015.

Animal Farm illustration by Ralph Steadman.

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