Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Ignorant Side of Macy’s Holiday Holidazzle

Almost two years ago now I wrote this post in this blog’s Annoying/Aggravating/Interesting Access Picture of the Week series featuring the picture below of an elevator button at the downtown Minneapolis Macy’s store labeled “For Handicap Use Only Middle Car Call.” At the time I posted the picture to make two observations: 1) to point out that the use of the word “handicap” was somewhere between poor word choice and offensive to people with disabilities (using handicapped, disability, or accessible would be much more PC) and 2) to question the chances of able-bodied folks actually deferring priority use of the elevator to people with disabilities as is intended.


My initial inclination to the latter was that no they wouldn’t because I’ve seen too many instances over the years where in busy stores like Macy’s every man for himself mentalities often butt ahead of proper etiquette. Even when it comes to matters of disability access and accessibility. And especially during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Being a wheelchair user I am of the opinion that I should get priority to any parking spot or ramp or elevator that I need to use over anybody that can walk, every single time, in any circumstance. Period. But unfortunately that is not the case fairly often.

But interestingly enough I got a first-hand answer to the notion above with this specific  elevator two days ago when I went to the downtown Minneapolis Macy’s 8th Floor Holiday Display with my parents and my girlfriend. As we approached the bank of elevators I could see that there was already a buildup of people waiting for the next elevator to open up. It was mostly couples, families, and people with child strollers. The people with strollers had a much more genuine reason to use the elevators but the rest could have easily used the escalators that were nearby instead. Having used this bank of elevators about a dozen times over the past few years to use the Macy’s skyway to go to legal conferences in the adjacent City Center I positioned myself right by the elevator in the picture above. But as each elevator door opened nobody got off, nobody made room, nobody paid attention to the disability label on that cart. In fact, people were so impatient to get upstairs to the 8th floor display that they started getting on the elevators to go down one floor just so that they could already be on it when it went up again.

But the most ignorant and interesting part of the story occurred as we were on our way out. After we went through the 8th floor display we went down to the lower level to the café to maybe hunt up a snack. As we were going through the same busy elevator ordeal as before on our way back up to the first floor I again positioned myself near the disability specific elevator cart. To my right was an impatient woman with a baby stroller who was standing right by the sign above and would push the button every time a full cart came down and went back up again. The first elevator cart with enough room for me, my wheelchair, my parents, and girlfriend to fit in we jumped on. As the door closed my girlfriend said that she felt like punching a woman. I asked why and her reason was that apparently the woman by the elevator button said in a real snotty tone something like, “Try waiting in line next time” to us as we got on the elevator.

So to be clear, the very able-bodied woman who was standing right by the sign that designated the elevator for disability use only, who was in fact pushing the button on that sign herself, and watched a person in a wheelchair get on the elevator ahead of her had the audacity to gripe about us allegedly cutting in line for the elevator. That is holiday holidazzle ignorance at it’s finest, folks. Had I heard her say that I would have backed right out again, whether I got separated from my family and girlfriend or not, and chewed that lady out to set her straight. You know, in the true holiday spirit of accessibility advocacy.

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