Wednesday, July 08, 2009


Bend Bi-Mart: wheelchair semi-accessible, if you have friends

We just got back from a trip to Bi-Mart. Bi-Mart, as far as I'm concerned, is part of the Oregon Experience. No yuppies, usually, lots of old farts and fartettes, shopping for necessities, like plumbing stuff or house-wares, lots of people always in the sporting goods section.

I've been shopping at Bi-Mart for thirty or so years. It's like a small regional K-Mart. I love it. However.

You remember, a couple of months ago I took a bad fall and got broken up. I spent about six weeks in a wheelchair. A month or so back, when I was in the wheelchair, we went to Bi-Mart here in Bend. No automatic door. A sign on the door about how if you needed assistance, to stop by the service desk and they'd be happy to help. The service desk is inside, sure. So one friend opened the door and Beth wheeled me inside. The clerk at the service desk looked surprised that I was unhappy about the door. After a while, an assistant manager came and told me that many people in wheelchairs went to the exit door and waited until someone came out—the exit door, of course, is automatic. From the inside. He said there was a button on the outside of the door that would open it. No sign anywhere about that being the handicapped accessible door. The button was a reach for someone of average height, let alone sitting in a wheelchair. I complained in my polite way and sent a "customer satisfaction" form off to corporate HQ. That was about a month ago.

Today, the same scene. Nothing has changed. The clerk at the service desk told me a sign on the front door said where the accessible door was. I read it to her. It didn't mention an accessible door anywhere. She said, well you know where it is. I said, yes, and I know that Bend doesn't really care about disabled access but that doesn't mean Bi-Mart doesn't have to care either. She was nice, but clueless. I think that's the problem: people who aren't disabled have so much privilege they don't realize how many people there are they don't have those privileges—nor how much those of us who are disabled feel about being ignored. The ADA laws have been around for a generation now, and they still, at least here in Bend, are considered a problem more than a solution.

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