Why change is so hard

My mom and I had an experience last week that reminded me why it’s so hard to bring Wheelchair-Ramp-Sign-33964037about change.

The day started out simply enough. Mom needed an MRI, per doctor’s orders, so we went to the imaging office for the test.

Mom can walk with the aid of a walker for a few yards, but mostly she’s in a wheelchair. She can’t negotiate steps or curbs, so when we’re out, I wheel her around in a portable wheelchair I keep in the trunk of my car.

A medical building with no wheelchair access

When we arrived at the MRI clinic, I discovered there was no ramp leading to the front door. We walked around to the back of the building and there was no ramp there, either.

So I left mom in the parking lot, hoping she wouldn’t get hit by a car, and went inside to ask how to get her in the door. We had to walk down a bumpy sidewalk, up a steep driveway and into the parking lot of the next building to reach a ramp that would let us into the right office.

By the time we arrived, I was furious. What kind of medical building has no handicap access? Don’t they know the Americans With Disabilities Act requires such access for public buildings?

The receptionist in the imaging office said they had gotten other complaints about inaccessibility and she gave me the name and phone number of their landlord. There was no manager on site to complain to.

Got a complaint? Get ready for red tape

The next day, I called the ADA coordinator for the city of Austin and she informed me she could only handle complaints about city-owned buildings.  She directed me to the city’s Equal Employment & Fair Housing Office, which investigates complaints under the Public Accommodations Ordinance. This ordinance prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.

The head of that office, whom I reached after multiple phone calls, said I would have to come in and file a complaint in person on behalf of mom. I would need to show that I have power of attorney for her and that my complaint would have to be notarized. He also said they don’t get many complaints like this. I wonder why.

I suppose the city has reasons for making people jump through so many hoops, but it’s not clear to me what those reasons are.

Who has time?

All I know is I have my hands full earning a living and helping my aging mother. I don’t have time to go through the maze of paperwork the city requires to look into something as basic and obvious as wheelchair access to a medical building.

I did call the landlord and the manager of the imaging company and lodged telephone complaints. But I can tell that seeing this process through will take more time and energy than I have. And besides, we’ll probably never go to the building again — I hope.

Like I said, now I know why it’s so hard to bring change, even when it’s badly needed. I just feel bad for the next person in a wheelchair who tries to get into that same building.