Accessibility: getting through the door

Every situation and every person is different. What are the particular challenges you have faced with accessing buildings?

I have learned that the word “accessibility” means different things to different people. The ADA provides guidelines for design. You might think that would be enough. I used to, and even was a bit put out about how onerous the guidelines could be on institutions like churches and small businesses.

Buildings are unique.

Understandably, many businesses in older buildings do the best they can with existing geometry and what they can afford.

I live in an area with many older buildings and very little by way of handicap parking. I have taken to stopping by a curb cut, putting my hazard flashers on and the handicap parking placard on the windshield, unloading/loading Grandma, then going back to deal with the car and parking.

An example:

I was surprised how hard it was to get to the wound clinic at a medical center. You would think they understood accessibility there.

Grandma uses a walker. It was rather shocking how difficult it was to get from the handicapped parking into the building. On our first visit I borrowed a wheelchair, but had to push it in the driving lane to get to the entrance because there was a discontinuous sidewalk without ramps. On subsequent visits I would unload her at the door, then had to drive a couple of blocks to find parking then trot to locate/catch up with her. Good exercise for me, but maybe not the best use of time.

The medical center is an old building that didn’t have the space or budget to meet the standards. They rely on having wheelchairs available to cover for that.

Accessibility: The ADA standards don’t work for everyone

Another, unpredictable, factor is that people vary in size, shape, strength and ability. So what is “accessible” for one person doesn’t work for everyone.

An example

For my grandmother a handicap curb cut is “quite a hill”. She is definitely less able bodied than the vast majority of walker users, in both strength and balance. The curb cut is a place where she needs assistance. Going up pulling a bit to help with the weight of the walker. Going down pushing against it enough that she doesn’t feel it is pulling her. Her fear of curbs is the result of a fall.


  • Have you had trouble with accessibility to a building? What factors made it hard?
  • How do you cope in situations where the parking is too far from an entrance or the route is difficult to maneuver?


Author: Kate

Formerly a stress engineer, I now do this and that. Which involves some website design and maintenance, some photography, some writing, eldercare for relatives, walking my furry friends, a bit of gardening and as little housekeeping as I can manage.