IU Health Bloomington’s accessibility complaint raises awareness for people with disabilities

June 27, 2022 Lesamarie Hacker, IU Health Bloomington volunteer and wheelchair user, reports complaints to Herald-Times About the height of the soap dispensers in the hospital bathroom and the accessibility nature of the cafeteria.

Hacker said she was concerned about the lack of access as she waited months for the hospital to address her complaints. Two days after the article was published, her anxiety began to improve.

“People need to start taking these issues and people with disabilities themselves seriously,” Hacker said.

IU Health Bloomington said in an email that the concerns had been resolved and had no further comment.

Unfortunately, according to the hacker, accessibility issues in Bloomington are not uncommon. Many restaurants and bars in Bloomington remain wheelchair-accessible, and there are issues with the height of items or the width of the aisles.

He emphasized the role of government regulations and individuals to increase hacker access.

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“Instead of meeting the minimum standards, people who work at IU Health or anywhere else can do this, whether it’s someone who uses a wheelchair full-time, someone who is small, someone who uses crutches, someone with cerebral palsy,” Hacker said.

Robin Jones, director of the Great Lakes Americans with Disabilities Law Center, describes common issues with ADA compliance in businesses and buildings.

According to Jones, it’s common for designers to overlook what they think are small issues when it comes to accessibility — the height of soap dispensers, the weight of doors, the width of hallways.

“A lot of the obstacles are people not paying attention to what they’re doing and not paying attention to where they’re putting things,” Jones said.

Universal design or the design of spaces for everyone is becoming more popular in construction. Therefore, ADA compliance is on the rise. Technology is improving accessibility by adopting automatic toilets, sinks and doors. However, the attitudes of business owners and employees often do not reflect these developments.

Jones said people should ask themselves how they want to be treated in such a situation.

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“Perhaps one of the biggest obstacles is the attitude of workers in many business areas,” Jones said. “They don’t know how to give good customer service and they don’t know how to deal with people with disabilities.”

Michael Shermis, special projects coordinator for Bloomington’s Community and Family Resources Department, outlined a major process for improving access to city government. His department mainly conducts surveys to check accessibility in buildings and makes recommendations based on those surveys.

“Our accessibility surveys often come from complaints,” Shermis said. “However, various organizations sometimes come to us for accessibility surveys. For example, the Monroe County Board of Elections, who asked us to survey their 32 polling stations.

Shermis says most of their work involves public property and retail spaces. City of Bloomington facilities are automatically surveyed by the department, and while other government agencies often request accessibility surveys, the retail and restaurant industries do not request these surveys.

Shermis emphasized that raising awareness of accessibility issues is the best way to improve the Bloomington area. With increased awareness, people hold themselves accountable.

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