Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Your Accessibility Conscience

Want to Know How Talk to People in Wheelchairs? Start with Hello!

Filed under: Accessibility 100 — by Glenda at 6:49 pm on Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Glenda wearing a leather jacket and a big smileEarlier today I read, on a major blog, an article about what never to say to people in wheelchairs. However, I will not dignify it with a link.

Why?

For two reasons:

First, It assumes all people in wheelchairs have the same look, feelings and opinions. News flash! We are not a homogenous group.

Second, it assumes all people in wheelchairs are angry, grumpy and bitter. Contrary to that assumption, some of us are happy and content individuals. We even have a wicked sense of humour!

The article gave the genuinely curious reader nothing useful when approaching wheelchair people – as if we need to be approached differently than walkies.

If our paths should cross one day and you are unsure how to start a conversation, start with “Hello!” We can both take it from there.

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a cafe mocha. Thanks kindly.

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Things That Make Me Go Hmm…or When Accessibility Bylaws and Common Sense Aren’t in Sync

Filed under: Accessibility 100 — by Glenda at 11:52 pm on Sunday, September 4, 2011

Another Accessibility 100 postToday being another glorious summer day, Darrell and I did our favourite road trip in reverse for a change. Taking the Skytrain into downtown Vancouver to Waterfront Station. We enjoyed the easy-to-manoeuvre seawall path around Coal Harbour, a spot I love.

After an accessible pit stop at the Westin Bayshore, we cut across the West End to English Bay. While searching for an accessible route down to the seawall, I spotted a wheelchair parking space in a pay parking lot. Surely a wheelchair accessible route down to the beach would be in close proximity.

Wheelchair parking with only stair access to beach

Upon further exploration, I discovered a fairly new looking curb cut to a fairly new path leading to…stairs.

Huh?

More searching did not reveal an accessible route. Am I on candid camera? What am I missing? Who is trying to stump the disabled?

No doubt the city’s bylaws require at least one wheelchair parking space in each parking lot.

Admittedly, non-wheelchair users are legally entitled to park in these spaces, provided they have a valid parking permit. These individuals might have heart conditions, arthritis or other impairments limiting mobility.

 However, a sign indicating “No wheelchair access to beach” would inform wheelchair users that there is no pointing parking here, unless they are looking to spend their day in the parking lot.

Darrell and I backtracked a couple of blocks and headed down the bicycle path to the seawall. With cyclists whizzing by us, the odd one cursed for being in the cyclist lane. Seriously.


Accessibility 100 is a series of 100 easy-to-implement, free and inexpensive tips for improving accessibility for people with disabilities. This is a community project. Feel free to leave your comments, questions and ideas for future Accessibility 100 posts.

Get the entire series by subscribing to the blog posts via email or by subscribing to the RSS feed.

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a cafe mocha. Thanks kindly.

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A Secret Trick to Making Wheelchair Accessible Washrooms Usable

Filed under: Accessibility 100 — by Glenda at 7:12 pm on Monday, August 29, 2011

Another Accessibility 100 postSometimes it is the smallest detail that renders an accessible situation usable or not.

A few weeks ago, Darrell and I trekked to a nearby recreation centre to pick up a library book on hold. After scooting along jarring sidewalks for half an hour, I, of course, had to use the washroom.

Wheeling into the women’s washroom, I was immediately impressed by the amount of open space, particularly between the two rows of stalls. I had plenty of room to back my scooter into the wheelchair stall without the door crashing against the stall across the aisle.

However, once in the stall, I had no way to pull close the door. I tried grasping the lock to close the door, but as soon I adjusted my hand position to lock it, I lost my grip and the door swung open. I desperately tried again. And again.

I also tried my trick of holding the bottom of the door with my foot. But the door was too low and I just couldn’t manage the fancy footwork without falling out of my scooter.

After trying for ten minutes to close and lock the door, I aborted my mission. Not a comfortable decision for a middle-aged woman.

A display rack of door handlesThe solution?

A $3-$5 door handle, available from any hardware store, installed on the inside of the door would have made the door easier to pull close and to hold onto while locking it. This inexpensive solution would make an otherwise accessible space usable.


Accessibility 100 is a series of 100 easy-to-implement, free and inexpensive tips for improving accessibility for people with disabilities. This is a community project. Feel free to leave your comments, questions and ideas for future Accessibility 100 posts.

Get the entire series by subscribing to the blog posts via email or by subscribing to the RSS feed.

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a cafe mocha. Thanks kindly.

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My Biggest Challenge with Presenting at SXSW: Getting on Stage

Filed under: Accessibility 100 — by Glenda at 2:33 pm on Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Another Accessibility 100 postA month prior to presenting at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, I dutifully requested an accessible route up to the stage, if, indeed, there was a stage. The conference organizers assured me that the stage would be accessible.

Awesome. One less detail to worry about.

Glenda Watson Hyatt watches lift install at SXSWi 2011
(Photo credit: Sheila Scarborough)

Minutes before I was due to begin my presentation, Austin Convention Center staff wheeled in a monstrous wheelchair lift. After plugging it in and fiddling with it for several minutes, the guys decided that it might work better on the other side of the stage.

The lift was moved to the other side and fiddled with for several more minutes. Meanwhile the audience was becoming understandably restless. With so many sessions to choose from, attendees do not stay in sessions that do not capture their attention. I envisioned everyone leaving before I could get on the stage.

For some unexplainable reason the lift did not work any better on the other side and was brought back to the first side. This time the lift did go up but not down. Because I have yet to master jumping several feet with my scooter, I needed the lift to go down before going up. Obviously that was not going to happen any time soon.

Glenda Watson Hyatt on stage with empty scooter at SXSWi 2011
(Photo credit: Sheila Scarborough)

Time for Plan B.

With only three stairs up to the stage, I suggested that, with assistance,  I could walk up onto stage. Both Becky McCray and Paul Merrill kindly offered their assistance.

On my way over to the other side of the stage, Becky offered Plan C: move the computer down so that I didn’t need to go up on stage. I considered her suggestion very briefly: Damn it, I had worked my butt off getting my presentation ready a getting to Austin. I was going to present from that stage – like everyone else.

Glenda Watson Hyatt presenting on stage at SXSW 2011
(Photo credit: Paul Merrill)

The three of us made our way up the stairs and over to the waiting chair. Thankfully everyone had waited; they were engaged in the live accessibility lesson unfolding before them.

I began my presentation, many minutes late. With Becky’s, Sheila’s and Paul’s assistance during the hands-on rubber band demonstration, the session rocked despite the rocky start!

To the Austin Convention Center and other conference facilities, I offer these recommendations:

  • Keep lift equipment in good operating condition.
  • Test the equipment prior to when it is needed.
  • Train facilities staff in how to use the equipment. Offer refresher training as needed;say,before an event where the equipment is needed.
  • Keep a portable ramp on hand in the event of mechanical failure. A less than ideal way to get on stage is
  • better than no way at all.

I was able, with assistance, to get up on stage and to proceed with my presentation. Another presenter may not be able to do the same and the presentation (and all associated costs) would be lost.


Accessibility 100 is a series of 100 easy-to-implement, free and inexpensive tips for improving accessibility for people with disabilities. This is a community project. Feel free to leave your comments, questions and ideas for future Accessibility 100 posts.

Get the entire series by subscribing to the blog posts via email or by subscribing to the RSS feed.

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a cafe mocha. Thanks kindly.

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Bonked Heads Don’t Make for Repeat Customers

Filed under: Accessibility 100 — by Glenda at 3:07 pm on Thursday, May 27, 2010

Another Accessibility 100 postLast weekend Darrell and I checked out a brand new recreation centre in our extended neighbourhood. Me being who I am, I was noticing the accessibility features: the automatic sliding front doors, the automatic door opener for the wheelchair accessible washroom, the flashing fire alarm,  the Braille on the elevator keypad and on the room signs, the wheelchair parking stalls near the front door and the like.

But the one thing that really stuck out for me was this set of stairs:

Open staircase without a barrier underneath

“If there’s an elevator, what is wrong with the stairs,” you ask.

Good question!

For people who are blind and use a white cane to navigate their surroundings, if they are heading towards under the stairs their cane will not hit an obstacle and they will keep walking, potentially banging their head on the overhang of the stairs. Similarly, children could be running around the staircase, take the circle too small and smack their head on the stairs overhead. Ouch!

The solution is to place a planter box, a sculpture on a base or something similar to act as a barrier:

Open staircase with a barrier

A barrier the full width of the staircase and the length to where adults can fully stand up will prevent bonked heads and broken noses.


Accessibility 100 is a series of 100 easy-to-implement, free and inexpensive tips for improving accessibility for people with disabilities. This is a community project. Feel free to leave your comments, questions and ideas for future Accessibility 100 posts.

Get the entire series by subscribing to the blog posts via email or by subscribing to the RSS feed.

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a cafe mocha. Thanks kindly.

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