SCENE 1 – The ladies Room
Prior to going out into the Student Center I discussed where we would observe with my team members. I jokingly expressed interest in the Starbucks Coffee Bar and the bathroom, saying that I had to use the ladies room and then needed a coffee. I knew, too, that I would need the elevator for anywhere I might go off the floor I was on.
I did want to use the ladies room, but even more wanted to have a moment of down time before plunging into a situation that was making me anxious. My cohorts and I entered the ladies room along with a young able-bodied woman who noticed I was in a wheelchair, because she grabbed at the door when she thought it was shutting on me. However, she then proceeded to use the only handicap accessible stall even though there were 7 general stalls. While I waited my classmates called out random observations from their own stalls, “I observe the beige and brown tile”, “I observe a lack of toilet paper”. I added, “I observe there is only one handicap stall.” In the next minute the young woman exited the stall and rushed out not washing her hands. She may have felt guilty for using the stall meant for the width of a wheelchair when there were plenty of others she might have chosen. I found her behaviors conflicting as she obviously wanted to help me get through the door but then used the only stall I could have used. I interpret her strange native behavior as a default setting in which, as I have often observed in other settings, people use the furthest stall which is almost always the handicap stall for privacy reasons.
Scene 2 – The Chairlift – Elevator Dilemma
Once back out in the public area above the Pit where the coffee bar is situated I headed for the elevator, realizing halfway there that the Pit is not accessible from the elevator. A classmate pointed out that there is a chair lift near the far right stairs from the front door vantage point. I tugged on the door thinking apprehensively about the many times I was stuck on one of those things at my previous job where the chairlift was dysfunctional. I felt relief to discover the door locked.
“Maybe I need to go to the information desk, ” I suggested to my classmate.
“Do you need to get down to the Pit?” asked a polite young man on the center set on steps from the entrance, “There’s another one over there.”
“Oh, where?” I asked and a second polite young man along with the first pointed to the farthest left corner of the area above the Pit.
I was impressed by their keen observation of my struggle even though I was not very verbal or loud in reaction to my situation and noted also their awareness and knowledge of a handicap accessibility solution even though they were both able-bodied.
I thanked them, agreed to meet my classmate at the bottom, and headed over to what looked like a metal closet door with a large window. This was the fanciest chairlift or smallest elevator I have ever scene. I decided to call it a chairlevator, but only in my head. I wouldn’t tell people that.
There are two buttons to push beside the contraption one to open the door and one to close it, I suppose if the wheelchair rider has a helper on the outside. Once inside the space that just fit me and my chair with enough room to pivot around 360 degrees I saw two more buttons with directions to lower the chairlevator to the Pit. First I had to press the bottom button to shut the door and then I had to hold said button pressed to begin my descent. It was best that I was in there alone as conversation with another person would have been futile. The thing made a whirring noise similar to the sound of a high powered blender and as startling as the caw of seagulls swooping down on a wayward slice of pizza at he New Jersey boardwalk.
When I reached the Pit the door behind me swung open, I turned around to exit, and rolled down a short ramp. I found a third set of double buttons outside the door on the wall and pressed the appropriate one to close the door. Now the work of real observation could begin.