IU Health Bloomington’s Accessibility Complaint Raises Disability Awareness

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On June 27, 2022, Lesamarie Hacker, an IU Health Bloomington volunteer and wheelchair user, filed complaints with the Herald Times the height of the soap dispensers in the hospital toilets and the inaccessible nature of the cafeteria.

Hacker said she was concerned about the lack of accessibility, having waited months for the hospital to address her complaints. Two days after the article was published, her concerns began to be addressed.

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

IU Health Bloomington said in an email that they have no further comment as the issues have been resolved.

Unfortunately, according to Hacker, accessibility issues in Bloomington are not uncommon. Many restaurants and bars in Bloomington remain inaccessible to wheelchair users, and issues with item heights or hallway widths persist.

Hacker highlighted the role of government regulations and individuals in helping to increase accessibility.

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“Instead of meeting the minimum regulations, people who work at IU Health or elsewhere should consider this as someone who uses a wheelchair full time, someone who is a small person, someone who uses crutches , someone who has cerebral palsy,” Hacker said. “It could be anyone who is marginalized in our disabled community.”

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

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

“A lot of barriers exist because people don’t pay attention to what they’re doing and where they’re putting things,” Jones said.

Universal design, or designing spaces for everyone, is becoming increasingly popular in construction. Consequently, ADA compliance is on the rise. The technology is also improving accessibility through the adoption of self-flushing toilets, sinks and doors. However, the attitudes of business owners and employees often do not reflect these advances.

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

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“One of the biggest barriers is probably the attitude of staff who work in many places of business, public or private,” Jones said. “They don’t know how to provide good customer service and don’t know how to interact with people with disabilities,”

Michael Shermis, Bloomington Department of Community and Family Resources Special Projects Coordinator, described the city government’s main process for improving accessibility. His department mainly carries out surveys to check accessibility in buildings and provides recommendations based on these surveys.

“Our accessibility investigations typically come from complaints,” Shermis said. “However, various organizations sometimes come to see us to do surveys on accessibility. For example, the Monroe County Election Committee who asked us to investigate 32 of their polling places.

Shermis said the majority of their work is on public properties and retail spaces. While City of Bloomington facilities are automatically surveyed by the department and other government organizations often request accessibility surveys, the retail and restaurant industries rarely request these surveys.

Shermis pointed out that raising awareness of accessibility issues is the best way to improve it around Bloomington. With increased awareness, people will take more and more responsibility.

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