Thursday, January 23, 2014

Accessibility Means Thinking of Someone Besides Yourself

I've been reading this wonderful blog and it's got me thinking a lot about accessibility.  And today I had one of those light bulb moments.  You know what I mean?  Suddenly something seemed so obvious it was hard to belief it just now occurred to me.  But somehow I missed it until now.

People are often so self-centered.  Myself included.  But when we talk about accessibility, well, real accessibility  means thinking of someone other than ourselves.

Today I was talking Isaac out to pee.  I opened my front door and a sheet of paper fluttered to the floor.  The property manager here sends out notices about various things on a fairly regular basis.  Today's notice was about the severe cold and what we should do to keep pipes from freezing.  When he, or his assistant, or one of the maintenance guys distribute these notices, they wedge them between the door and the door frame.  When you open the door, the paper drops to the floor.  There's no way it won't.

Now, I have a really hard time bending over to pick things up.  Fortunately I have a service dog and he is happy to pick up these papers for me.  If I didn't have Isaac, I would probably just leave the  notices on the floor for the maintenance people to pick up.

The property manager knows I can't bend over to pick up these notices.  I know he knows, because once he was out in the hallway when I opened the door and one fell to the floor, and he asked if I wanted him to get it for me.  I told him no, thank you, but Isaac would do it.  But why does continue to stick notices in my door like that when he knows I can't pick them up?

So today I took the notice from Isaac, put it in my kitchen, and took Isaac out for his walk.  On our way out, I noticed a paper on the floor in front of one of my neighbor's doors.  She is 80 years old, uses a walker, and looks pretty frail.  And I thought, "Hey, I bet she has a hard time picking up those notices off the floor!"  And then I thought of some of my other neighbors, like the one that wears leg braces and uses a cane and the man that uses a wheelchair and only has limited use of his arms and hands, and I thought, "Hey, I bet they have a hard time picking up those notices, too!"

So after Isaac peed and we came back inside, I called up the property manager.  He probably expects these kinds of calls from me by now.  I told him how, if I didn't have Isaac to pick up the notices for me, I would just be leaving them on the floor.  Then I mentioned some of my neighbors I thought would have trouble picking them up, too, and pointed out that they don't have an Isaac to pick up things for them.

The property manager said he hadn't thought about that and I said I hadn't either, until today.  He said something along the lines of he'll think on it and see what they can do differently.


  1. Excellent points! It's hard to believe that the building manager knows that you and older people there have trouble bending over to pick things up for various reasons and yet he didn't think of an alternative means of delivering messages. I used to live in a building that did the same thing and it drove me nuts because my hands are always full when I leave or get home and I often stepped over the notices to pick them up later rather than set everything I had down to pick it up. I wonder if he could post news and notices on a community bulletin board at eye level near the front door so people would see it when they come and go? Or arrange that the flyers be distributed in each tenant's mailbox with the post office? It seems like a simple solution. I'm glad you pointed this out to the guy. Hopefully he will actually consider tenants' needs when he makes decisions in the future.

    1. There are many alternatives. He could tape them to the doors. Instead of delivering one to each door, he could just post a few in places they'd be seen, like inside the elevator, near the front doors, in the community room, in the laundry room and maybe by the mail boxes. I'm not sure if he can put them in the mail boxes unless he mails them, because I don't think the USPS allows you to use the boxes for anything other than mail. Mailing them would make them take longer to arrive and it would cost more for postage, but he could mail them. Or you know what I did when I gave Christmas cards to some of my neighbors? I didn't want to pay to mail them and I didn't want to stick them in the doors so they'd fall on the ground, so I staple a piece of yarn to the envelope to make a loop, which I then hung from their door handles. The point is there are alternatives. But it was also just interesting to me that even I hadn't considered how hard it would be for so many of my neighbors to pick them up, which it seems like should have been easy for me to see.

  2. I used to work at an apartment complex as a leasing agent. It was my job to post notes and I used tape. One scotch roll of tape would do the entire complex and was less than a buck at the dollar store. So it was smart of the complex to spend that small amount of money.
    I have a friend who lives at another complex and their management has those bulldog paper clips nailed to the trim around each door. So they just have to clip it in.

    Either of those options would work for your management.

    It was nice of you to think of other people.