Cambria Incident

Now on the much publicized Cambria incident.

Last week we visited the area on a editorial research trip. At the top of my list was a visit to nearby Hearst Castle, as I wanted to see how they handled accessibility. I was quite impressed with their accessible tour, and will include the details in the winter issue of Emerging Horizons. The point of this story is not to point out specific access details, but instead to emphasize that in order to make the most of your experience (any experience) it?s essential to plan ahead.

Anyway, back to the castle. After our tour I was milling around in the visitors center (there is lots to do there) and I noticed this woman with a walker. She was in her 80s and she appeared to be accompanied by her 60-something son and his wife. (hey, I can?t help it, I?m a people-watcher).

The son went over to an employee and asked him when the bus would begin loading for the next tour. The employee replied, and then glanced over at the lady with a walker and asked the man if he had booked an accessible tour. The man said no and then (loudly) added, ?Well everything is suppose to be accessible today. We have the ADA, don?t you know.? It pretty much went downhill from there.

The employee tried to retain his composure (and did what I consider a good job in a difficult situation). He informed the man that his mother would not be able to take the walker on the tour, and if she could not walk up 107 stairs by herself then she would not be allowed to take the standard tour. He was then directed to the rangers office to inquire about the availability of an accessible tour, but since accessible tours have to be booked 10 days in advance (they are popular) it?s doubtful he was able to join a tour that day.

It was a very unfortunate incident, and it all happened because the man assumed that everything was accessible. In a way that?s kind of incredulous to me as during the hour or so I was in the visitors center I heard at least five announcements stating that ?tour one includes climbing and descending 107 stairs?.

The moral of the story is, never assume anything about accessibility. Plan ahead (wherever you travel) so you don?t end up like this poor man.