Should Everything Be Accessible?

A typical old building in the ghost town of Hornitos, California.

Should everything in the world be wheelchair-accessible?

At first glance, the answer to this query would appear to be yes; however it’s prudent to be wary of questions or statements that include sweeping generalities like “everything”. Most things, yes; but everything? Maybe not so much.

Take the cable trail up Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, for example. Not only is it not accessible, but it’s downright dangerous. Almost every year a few unprepared tourists fall to their deaths attempting it. But that’s not to say that all of Yosemite isn’t accessible. The new(er) Yosemite Falls trail was designed with access in mind, and now you can safely get to the base of the falls in a wheelchair. And if you fancy some adventure, there’s no shortage of rock faces to climb in the park. They are certainly do-able with the correct adaptive equipment and a lot of training  — just ask Mark Wellman.

So no I don’t think everything should be accessible.

But what about cities? Do you think everything within them should be accessible? Well, since we all pay taxes I think we should all have the same access to city services, so I say yes, to the extent that it is readily achievable. And in my book, readily achievable means that the city has the money to make things reasonably accessible without causing a financial hardship. And unfortunately that depends on the size of the municipality.

For example, San Francisco should certainly make sure all of its programs and services are 100% accessible, as they have the bucks to do it. But what about sleepy little Hornitos? This California ghost town is located near Mariposa and boasts less than 100 residents. It was the one time hangout of outlaw Joaquin Murieta; and today many of the old buildings (including the jail) are in disrepair. It’s not a fancy-dancy ghost town like Columbia, but rather a take-it-as-you-get-it ghost town.

Truth be told, not much happens in Hornitos, except for the first Saturday in March.

Despite the lack of access, the food was excellent at the Hornitos Enchilada Dinner.

That’s when they have their annual enchilada dinner.

And that’s exactly what took me to Hornitos this past Saturday. Now in it’s 64th year, this community fundraiser provides for such worthy projects as re-roofing the community center and giving every eighth grade graduate a dictionary. Unfortunately it’s not exactly accessible. To be fair, full access isn’t readily achievable for Hornitos,  but there are a few things the community planners could do to make things easier for wheelers and slow walkers to access the enchilada dinner.

Let’s start with the parking. Hornitos has no sidewalks, so most folks just pull to the side of the road and park on grass or dirt mounds. As long as you don’t block a driveway, you’re good to go. But that’s downright dangerous for wheelers, as lowering a ramp with cars passing on one side and zero room on the other really isn’t an option. One solution might be to save the one paved parking area in town (which also serves as the stage during the mariachi and vaquero entertainment) as a drop-off zone for wheelers and slow walkers. Signage would be a good idea too.

The only paved area in town also serves as a stage; however it could be used as an accessible drop-off area.

Or perhaps finding a level field or a lot and reserving it for people who have placards. Even if it’s not paved, enough room to lower a lift and safely get out of a vehicle would be greatly appreciated. It would also be a great safety feature. Again, proper signage would be needed, but I don’t think either of those options would cost too much money.

Now the community center does have one large accessible parking space, but it wasn’t really an option on Saturday, as some kids were playing basketball there. Maybe they should make sure that this coveted spot actually goes to someone who needs it; by setting up the basketball game in another area.

There are also steps up to the community center — where the lines form for dinner — and signs directing folks to the take-out area if they’d prefer to picnic outside. I assume there is an accessible route and entrance to the community center — it may be through the back — but to be honest I didn’t see it. They also have accessible bathrooms; but again, unless you knew where they were, they are of little use.

So my suggestion is a little planning and whole lot of signage. Maybe they could set up an access committee, to map out the most accessible routes; and install signs directing visitors to the accessible entrance to the community center as well as the accessible bathrooms. This would help out greatly — and they wouldn’t cost much either. They could probably even get the signs donated.

On the plus side, the enchiladas were very yummy and the entertainment was great. And at just $10 per person, it’s really very affordable. It’s just a fun event. In fact, I plan to go back next year, and I hope to see at least a smidgeon of access then. After all, a girl can dream, can’t she? Hopefully the powers that be will read this blog, and perhaps take some action.

So in answer to my original question: no I don’t think everything in the world has to be accessible; but with a little effort many things can be made do-able for wheelers and slow walkers. And that’s what reasonable accommodation is all about.

 

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