Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Are you kidding me?

Susan Skoney

As a good friend of mine says, “Are you kidding me?” I had this response to yet another obstacle in an allegedly accessible building—the drug store. There are handicapped parking spaces and curb cuts outside of the store. But the doors are 1960s originals—heavy, manual, double doors that make it virtually impossible for anyone in a wheelchair to enter.

My frustration does not stop there. The MS clinic in the hospital where I am a patient has no automatic doors. One must rely on the kindness of strangers to let them in. This, of course, is the same hospital where the bathrooms in the rehab unit are inaccessible by wheelchair. Are you kidding me?

Then there is the door at the brand-new neurological center where one of my providers is located. The door is not automatic and so heavy that even those without issues have a hard time opening it. Are you kidding me?

It seems incredible that some of the biggest offenders to accessibility are healthcare providers. And it’s not just doors, it’s tables. Wouldn’t you think that a doctor’s office would have at least one examination table in their office that would be high enough for people with profound mobility issues to manage? There are those of us who can’t just “hop up”!

Last winter, I had to obtain an ultrasound for a suspected blood clot in my leg. I went to the imaging center, where they felt they couldn’t safely get all 115 pounds of me on the table, even with the help of my aide and their techs .The table was just too high.

I was then sent to their other location with the promise that an adjustable table would be available. It was. But it was located in a room the size of a broom closet. Equipment had to be removed so my wheelchair could get through the door. When I used my chair to start the transfer, it knocked over other equipment, half of me went under the table, and the tech and I both yelled, “Stop!” After all the hysteria subsided, I had the test. No clot.

Dealing with all the problems MS throws our way, I think the medical community could be more attentive to accessibility issues. No kidding, doors and tables would be a great place to start.

Susan Skoney was diagnosed in 1999. She lives in western New York with her husband Michael and children Hannah and Alex. She worked many years in public relations and advertising, and has just started writing about her MS in the last few years.


  1. I started picking my grandkids up from kindergarten this year. On the second day of school, I was shocked to find the 2 (yes they only had 2 handicapped spots) handicapped spots in front of the school painted over, there was no sign. A police officer was standing there telling everyone who asked that there was no more handicapped parking. It disrupts the flow of traffic picking up the children.
    I was irate and called the police chief when I got home. He told me this was perfectly legal. I asked him if they were not required by law to provide places for handicapped to park. Also there were many grandparents there that needed the spots. He told me no, it was perfectly legal.

    It took me calling the school board, the city councel and everyone in the school I could to get ONE, yes ONE spot back. I think the laws are abused everywhere.

  2. My son's school as two handicapped spots. I know that there is myself and another parent there that has MS. But when we use them we still need to walk up a huge hill to get to the front of the building because you need to sign in and show ID. My son has complained on my behalf to his teacher but she says it meets ADA standards and there is nothing he can do. Now he wants to go to our local news station.

  3. http://www.ada.gov/publicat.htm#Anchor-TitleIII-11481 punitive damages may be severe.

  4. Luckily, I don't have a problem with my pharmacy. I live in northeast Florida and Walgreens is my pharmacy. It's a small place and they have three handicapped parking spots with two curb cuts and the doors are automatic. Everything is accessible in the store except the refrigerated and freezer doors. Otherwise, I can't complain.

    The neurological offices are fully automatic to get in. The bathroom is difficult to get in and out as the doors are hard to open. The bathroom itself is fully accessible once you get in, though. The doctor's office, I need someone to open the door so I can get in and the secretary opens the door so I can get out. The rooms are tight but enough room for me to move my chair around and the tables are low. I can't complain too much. I haven't had my chair long so I'm sure there are going to be many situations where I'm not going to get in and out without help. I'm shy and not much of a complainer. Maybe one day I will complain enough and do something about it.

  5. Doors, especially doors to bathrooms, are the bane of my life. Anyone have a ballpark figure for cost of installation of automatic doors?

  6. I have one. I am a nurse that worked in a dr. office. When I had asked the doctors that I worked for if there were any jobs that I could do in the office (since I was having issues with walking) they said no we cannot accomodate you here. I was so hurt that being my employer & my family dr. that they would not want to be able to help me stay employed for as long as I could. I guess I was a useless person. They also have doors that don't automatically open & some people just stare at you when you are needing help.ARG!

  7. I thought the problem was me. Maybe there was a trick to getting doors open. It's good to know, they should just have automatic doors!