Friday, August 8, 2014

Separate Entrances

Have you heard about the luxury condo development going up in New York that will have a separate entrance for lower income residents?  In order to get big tax breaks, the developers decided to include some units for lower income residents.  But those residents will have to use a separate entrance, not the front door.  They also will not be allowed to use the pool or the gym.

A lot of people are outraged by this.  Or at least bothered by it.  Which I understand.  I don't like it, either.

But you know, lots of businesses have separate entrances for customers with disabilities.  At least, for those that use wheelchairs or can't climb stairs.

Or did you know that?  The Americans with Disabilities Act requires businesses to have accessible entrances (although there are many exceptions or exemptions), but the law does not require any businesses to make their main entrances accessible.  In many instances, the wheelchair accessible entrance is a back or side entrance, maybe back by the dumpster.

The other day I was at my local post office and for the first time, as I climbed the many steps to the front door, it occurred to me that no one using a wheelchair or walker would be able to get up those steps.  So I looked around to find out how they would get in.  They would have to go around to the back of the building and go in the entrance usually used for deliveries.

Now, if a restaurant or other business put a sign on the front door that said "African Americans must use rear entrance," people would be upset.  If they put a sign on the front door that said "Jewish people must use rear entrance," people would think that was wrong.  People don't think poor people should be required to use the back entrance, either.

But I hardly ever hear people complain about people with disabilities being required to use the back entrance.

And here's the thing.  It would be a violation of the ADA to post a sign at the front door saying "People with disabilities must use rear entrance."  But it is perfectly legal, and apparently acceptable to most people, to create a front door that makes it impossible for people with certain disabilities to enter.  It's illegal to have a policy requiring people with disabilities to use the rear entrance but perfectly legal to build a building that requires them to do so.

How does that make sense?

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