WHAT IS ACCESSABILITY?
Sonia Verswyvel
soniav3@hotmail.com - July 09 of 2012
I am invited to a friend’s home to eat. When I arrive, I need to wait outside while people get ready to welcome me and carry me up the front stairs. During the meal I do not drink anything because on the first floor there is no bathroom, and if there was, my wheelchair would not pass through the narrow door.

People with reduced mobility are very aware of these unfortunate and unnecessary situations. Unnecessary, because the application of the concept of accessability would solve the inconvenience. I am sure that those who tell me “don’t you worry” do so because they have not had a disabling condition.

Designing for accessability is design that is inclusive, sustainable, and not so costly in new homes and towns. A home is accessable when it has, at minimum, one entrance without stairs, hallways 80 cm wide, and a bathroom (with shower or without) in the first floor, with a doorway 80 cm wide, and, of course, enough space to enter with the chair and shut the door.

The necessity for accessability has always existed because persons with disabilities have always existed. The difference is that before, those persons were kept in the home without being able to go out because they did not know that they had the Civil Rights to use accessable busses, homes, parks , streets, and ramps.

It was five years ago, after a long and painful rehabilitation, from my wheelchair I found myself with all of the doors closed for me, and other people with disabilities (disabled children, parents with baby carriages, adults with walkers, canes, crutches … the list is endless …)

A policeman of 24 years, a victim of the conflict in our country, now in a wheelchair, told me that he had gone through mental, emotional and physical changes that were very painful. His family gave him a trip to the Island of San Andres with his girlfriend, so he could rest after his rehabilitation. They arrived at a hotel with an entrance filled with stairs and they were not able to enter their room. He told me “the saddest part is that I am a man, and it is very humiliating that my girlfriend had to lift me in order to enter the bathroom because the doorway was too narrow for my chair”. I understood then that all of us experience the same difficulties …

Reviewing the information, there are laws but they have not been enforced. No one had the interest to see us as equals, as consumers and family members, and especially with the possibility of working and supporting the household. What is the difference between public buildings, houses, shopping centers, theatres, airports? Why can we not enter them? Why is accessibility important? The reasons and the stories are endless …
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