My employer recently held an employee recognition event.  Notice that it’s not “appreciation”.  That isn’t directly relevant to this story, but I thought I’d mention it because it struck me as darkly humorous initially and a little more so after the event itself.  “Come on down to employee recognition!  See people you barely know get recognized for having worked here for a damned long time” went the gist of the many emails I got about it.  It was in my building, so  I thought it might be something I could go to and sit awkwardly at (see “awkward pumpkin painting”) and put in my face time at events.  Because it’s been required of me that I go to events.  It was put in writing even, back last spring.  It’s never been rescinded in writing, so although I find it burdensome (if not downright impossible) to go to most things and although I don’t know of another employee who has a written requirement to attend ALL events and functions, I’m honestly just not ready to sue.  So I try to go, when I can.  I assume if I don’t, I’ll get passed by for a raise again, seen as a poor team player, you know, all that.

But yesterday was busy.  We’re down a staff member in my office and while we do have a temp, we’ve still divided up some of the permanent position’s work among the permanent staff.  So I have other responsibilities and we’re heading into a bit of a busy time for me.  And we’re now interviewing (finally!) for the open job, and the interview schedule is messing up my schedule a bit.  I usually work from home Tuesdays and Thursdays but this past week and next I’m in all over the place.  So yesterday, despite the emails we had all gotten inviting us to recognize other employee’s recognition, I ended up working straight into the afternoon without giving this event another thought.  Until I went out for a break, at a time that I later realized was about an hour before the event started.  On my way back into the building, noticed they’d locked the accessible entrance.  “That’s odd,” I thought.  But then they had locked it the night before too.  The night before, it was late and I figured they just screwed up and locked the wrong door.  See, the front of my building has two doors.  A revolving door (not accessible) and an accessible, normal door.  The back of my building has a door too.  A non-accessible door due to it being up a flight of stairs from street level and having no button press-opener.  To get to the non-accessible back door, you take the elevator to the building’s second floor.  To get to the accessible front door, you go to the first floor.  Got it?  Ok, back to last night.

After encountering the locked accessible door again last night, and having to wait until no one was coming through the revolving door to use it (I don’t move fast enough for some people and have been clipped in these doors before, so I’ve stopped using them)…I thought “When I’m leaving tonight, I’ll go out on the first floor and ask the security guard if this locking the accessible door is a new thing.  If it is, I’ll drop a line to the building manager to let them know that’s not ok.  They’re pretty good about fixing things like this.”  Then I went back to my office and worked.

It turned out I worked well through the event without realizing it.  On my way out of the building, as the elevator neared the lower floors, I heard a lot of noise coming through the doors.  They opened on the second floor, which deposits you on a balcony/mezzanine level that looks out over the lobby and the accessible entrance, and I saw a big fancy looking event going on, people filling the lobby, little cocktail tables, music.  Ah, right.  The employee event.  “Ok,” I thought, “not going out that way then.  And I guess I know why that door was locked tonight.”  Making a note to follow up on the whole locked door thing,  I made my way out to the back, inaccessible door.  Still, I believed I had a choice in this.  I didn’t need the accessible door yesterday, so I chose to go out the back.  I was wrong, it turned out.  Because it turned out that even if I had needed it, I couldn’t have used the accessible entrance to my building to get out last night.

The security guard who was stationed at the back entrance was the regular.  He’s chatty.  We’ve chatted while I’m waiting for Mr. Patient to pick me up on cold nights when I don’t want to wait outside, or on nights when I’m feeling to bad to stand and wait.  The security guard was very animated last night.  He told me that they had shut down the front entrance of the building “without telling anyone!  They’re just sending people back here” he said, incredulous, “and those people are pissed!” he added.  He told me people had been “yelling in my face all night” because of the inconvenience of having to find their way to the back entrance to the building.  “One woman was freaking out because they shut off elevator access to the first floor, the elevator went down and the door wouldn’t open so she came out here and was screaming ‘what the hell!?  I was stuck in the elevator!'” (I doubt very much that she was screaming.  This is a young man in his twenties.  To him, any woman who is angry and verbal is likely seen as “screaming”, so I took it as a cultural hyperbole meant to convey the intensity of her emotional state).

Meanwhile, I’m thinking “that totally could’ve been me”.  “Uh, yeah, what about people with disabilities?” I asked him.

“Whaddya mean?” he said.

“I mean what if someone with a wheelchair or a brace or a walker wanted to get in…or out of the building tonight?  What are they supposed to do?”  He shrugged and gestured to the doors and the stairs that lay just beyond them.  “You’re kidding me, no plan?”

“Nope.  I guess carry them?” he said laughing.

I was pissed off.  I was personally pissed off because there are days when I HAVE to use the accessible entrance to get in and out of my building.  If was just a matter of them locking the door but with security there, and it was one of those days, I could ask to have it unlocked.  But they turned off the elevator.  No way to get down there even.

As I was in the car and going past the front entrance of the building, I saw that there was a cop standing in front of the accessible door, arms folded across his chest, looking imposing.  I suppose he was the one who was turning people away who were approaching the entrance from the street.  Man, it’s a good thing I didn’t know he was out there.  I have such authority issues, and I was so pissed.  I’d have been over to him in a flash, asking him to explain what the hell someone in a wheelchair was supposed to do.  Cops LOVE that kind of attitude, women “screaming” in their faces and what not.  Like I said, good thing I didn’t know he was there until I was safely separated from him by the car door, mechanical motion, and the busy street traffic.

I was pissed off on principle too.  I have seen people in wheelchairs and scooters in my building.  I know that they would have been left stranded, either on the sidewalk trying to get in or (possibly worse, I think) on the second floor without a way out.  I had troubling dreams last night about needing to use a guide dog and no one believing that I needed the dog.  I woke up a few hours after falling asleep, remembered the end of the day and the door thing, and was pissed off all over again.

So, not employee appreciation, recognition.  But apparently not even recognition for the disabled employees.

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  1. Wow. What a crappy, crappy thing. I’d be royally pissed off too and if you get the slightest bit snippy with a cop out here, they threaten to take you in, so rather glad you didn’t see him until you left. I also find security guards to be an interesting bunch of highly uneducated rejects, as most of the rental communities here have them on patrol due to all the crime.

    Anyway, that is exactly why those of us with disabilities will always be marginalized: that crappy attitude of the normies out there. I don’t think they’ll ever get it until it happens to them or someone they care about and then they understand the ordeal a little better.

    Also, glad you skipped that stupid event, and if they get on your case, tell them you got trapped in your non-ADA compliant office. I’m sure there’s something in violation in there.


    • We have two really nice security guards who work the front desk. They put the “rejects” in the back. They aren’t too bad, just very very young. They may grow out of it, is how I see it.

      Yeah, when I’m feeling righteously pissed off, a person of authority who is enforcing the thing I am righteously pissed off about is like a red flag in front of a bull.

      My office. Why yes, in fact there is. The heat in the building has been on for weeks now. That’s ok since it had been cold out and I have an air conditioner in my office. Except Monday. This Monday, it had been unseasonably warm and I could not get the temp in my office below 76. I left early with the dizzies and feeling super sick to my stomach, endured a grueling rush hour ride home, and promptly developed a killer migraine that kept me awake and literally crying in bed that night. My office with an air conditioner is an accommodation, one I made sure was in place before I even accepted the job offer. To have to work without it was impossible. And I think this is the other reason I was so incredibly pissed off about the door thing. It was like the bookend of a week of my employer being like “screw all you sick and crippled people!” Too much.

      Got my boss on it from the student side. She’s already talked to the deans about it. And I’m meeting with HR next week to share my “WTF!?” with them. I’ll let you know how that goes….as I said to the security guard, I expect they’ll give exactly this much (finger and thumb nearly touching) of one shit.

      • I just knew there was something about your office based on all the other issues and so sorry you got so sick that day–not right at all. Argh! I hate that you keep having to talk to HR or whomever and get nowhere.

        It reminds me a lot of the sick building I was in when I 1st got sick, and I’ll never know if that triggered the EDS, but I was covered in rashes that required oral steroids and on and on. I was with the PD then and called every dept with the city, the housing authority since we were in the projects, plus the health dept., animal control (whole other story about the meth apt next door to our substation) and on and on. It was like banging my head against the wall. I don’t know if I ever told you that the head of risk management finally drove across town in his BMW and had this look of disgust on his face when he came in–swatting the flies that circled at the entrance. He told me he smelled animal urine and something else and told me to go home and he’d contact the chief of police. I got notice the next morning from the chief to report back to work because the city “doesn’t tell him what to do.” So, rather a no-win and you probably get why I don’t care for cops. I think I have PTSD from all that.

        I’m really sorry they don’t appreciate all you do there and I hope anything comes out of that meeting. Fingers crossed.

      • oh my god that sounds horrible! Just awful.

        Now that I’ve fought for my accommodations, for the most part, my office is good. The “attend all events” thing is still tough for mobility, energy, and diet reasons. This was such a global “f- you” to anyone who needed that accessible entrance that in I really don’t take it personally, and in some ways, that sort of helps. It also helps that my boss got this right away and was on it from the student side of things. That’s her job, to make sure things are accessible to students. I’m glad I enlisted her assistance, not an easy thing to do if it’s all about me (still have problems asking for help).

      • Yeah, I seem to have that same problem, so glad the students were taken into account and that you enlisted her assistance. I really hope it works this time!

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