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Tag: ADA

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Churches Should Do Away with Handicap Parking Spaces as a Sign of “Faith”

benny hinn and greg locke

Churches in the American culture — you know one of the largest expenses we have in buildings? The amount of handicap parking and handicap accessibility that we have in our churches. Now let me make you mad for a minute and I don’t really care. Why is it you pull up to a church that says they operate in faith, and you have fifty handicapped parking spots?

Aint no body lay hands on them handicapped folks yet? I don’t care what Twitter says. You can get mad all you want to. Fold your arms. Stick your lips out. Poot[?] your mouth. I don’t care. I’m so unafraid of what anybody in this tent thinks about me right now in my life, I could care less.

We just expect that people are going to leave church the same way they came to church. We ought to start having some signs out there, that don’t have like handicap accessibility …  people in a wheelchair. We ought to start having signs of a wheelchair laying down and someone just walking up.

‘Well pastor, you are just being insensitive.’

I think you just don’t have any faith is what I think.

— Greg Locke, pastor of Global Vision Bible Church, Mt. Juliet, Tennessee

HT: Protestia

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Funny Bone — Toledo: Another Example of Disabled People Being Treated as an Afterthought by an Entertainment Venue

trae crowder bruce and polly gerencser cropped
Trae Crowder, Bruce and Polly Gerencser

My partner, Polly, and I traveled to Toledo, Ohio, last night to listen to Trae Crowder at the Funny Bone Comedy Club and Restaurant in Levis Commons — a sprawling outdoor shopping center. Big fans of Crowder, we’ve been looking forward to hearing him for months. We listen to his weekly podcast, along with the short videos Crowder puts out several times a week. Crowder, an agnostic, calls himself the “Liberal Redneck.” While Crowder, age 37, currently lives in Los Angeles, he came of age in rural Tennessee. Crowder attributes his liberal/progressive political and social beliefs to his family’s abject poverty during his childhood years.

somerset baptist church 1983-1994 2
Our hillbilly mansion. We lived in this 720-square-foot mobile home for five years, all eight of us.

Having grown up in similar circumstances in the 1960s-1980s, I find Crowder’s humor appeals to me in ways other comedians don’t. When Crowder talks about “white trash” or “trailer trash,” I understand. When uttered by people who have never experienced real poverty, I bristle and often give them a buffet-plate-loaded-up-on-seafood-night response. However, when someone from the poverty fraternity satirizes these experiences, I laugh — been there done that — but the trauma of those years still lurks in the depths of my being. I no longer live in abject poverty. I am more “fashionably dirt poor” these days. Roof over our heads, food on the table, bills paid (albeit a few days late here and there), and taxes up to date. Life is good, even if the Bengals are 0-2.

Crowder delivered as advertised. We got the opportunity to meet him afterward, shake his hand, and have a picture taken. We live in an area where seven out of ten voters voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020. God, Trump, Guns, and Evangelical Christianity rule the roost. For godless liberals such as Polly and I, we are foreigners in the land of my birth and the home of our six children and grandchildren. Hearing Crowder was a brief respite for us from incessant right-wing extremism.

Unfortunately, the “experience” itself was, to put it mildly, less than optimal, and, at times, downright frustrating and painful.

We arrived at Funny Bone at 6:00 p.m. Unable to find a parking space, we were forced to park three city blocks away from the venue. Neither the sidewalks nor the parking lot were ADA-compliant. We entered the doors for the club around 6:15 p.m. The doors were challenging to enter. Technically, ADA-compliant, it took Polly several attempts to get my wheelchair through the glass doors (there was no automatic door opener). Once in the lobby, we found no staff to assist us. The club itself is on the second floor. On the desk sat a sign that said there was an elevator in “back.” Back where, exactly? No directions, no arrows pointing to the elevator. Being first-time visitors, we were left with figuring out what “back” meant. Polly walked the stairs to the second level, hoping to find anyone to help us. After being unable to find someone to help us, Polly came back to the lobby and told me that she was going to walk around the back of the building to see if she could find the elevator.

With the elevator found, we thought we were home free. Little did we know, the worst was to come.

Out of the inadequate doors we went, around to the elevator, only to find more doors we had to contend with. Barely wide enough for a standard wheelchair, none of the doors had automatic door openers. Fortunately, we had the elevator to ourselves. Easy in, easy out, straight. . . to . . . the . . . venue . . . now, right? Nope, there was another door we had to enter to reach the club. Thanks to boxes stacked near the door, Polly could not push my wheelchair through the door. She had to move the boxes so we had enough room to barely navigate through the door. This door gave way to a hallway that led to the hostess station. The hallway was narrow, and ADA compliant only if there were not boxes or people taking up space. In other words, it was difficult to navigate.

Finally, we made it to the hostess station. I had called Funny Bone the night before to remind them that I was in a wheelchair and would need accommodation. “No problem,” I was told. A few feet in front of the hostess station was a transition between flooring types. Paying no need to ADA compliance, Funny Bone used a raised transition instead of a flat one. Of course, hitting this speed bump nearly tipped over my wheelchair (with me in it). Thoroughly embarrassed, Polly eventually righted my chariot, and onto the main floor we went. The Funny Bone is laid out like a supper club. They could have parked my wheelchair in any number of out-of-the-way places, but the staff decided to sit me at a table that was pushed up next to another table, near where there would be a lot of foot traffic. I spent the rest of the night being bumped into by patrons and employees alike. Telling the crippled guy “sorry” might make you feel good, but it does nothing for the person physically harmed. I suspect if Funny Bone received a spot fire inspection or ADA compliance inspection, they would have failed miserably.

Crowder was as advertised. Afterward, we waited for most of the venue to clear out before leaving. We do this to avoid having to deal with rude, thoughtless people. That and the fact that it is impossible to push a wheelchair anywhere in a crowd. So we waited to make our escape. After retracing our steps, we finally made it to the parking lot at the back of the Funny Bone. We started out on the sidewalk, only to find out it was a dead-end, running into a metal gate. This forced us to take the parking lot, complete with speed bumps to our automobile. Adapt and persevere, right?

Polly wheeled me about ten feet into the parking lot, when all of a sudden my chair stopped, Polly screamed “Oh no!” and I went flying head-first onto the pavement. As I lay prostrate on my right side in the parking lot, Polly steadied herself and came to my aid, Others were nearby, but ignored what was playing out in front of their eyes, Finally, a young man rushed up and asked if I was okay; if I needed any help. Filled with embarrassment and pride, I thanked him and said I would be fine. He waited while I climbed on my knees to the wheelchair, locked the wheels, and pulled myself up. Polly apologized repeatedly as we made it back to the car. I told her, “It’s not your fault.” While on my knees I found the culprit, a chunk of asphalt was missing, and one of the front wheels on my chair sunk into the hole, sending me flying into the crisp fall night.

For those of us who use wheelchairs, walkers, and canes, doing simple things can prove to be a challenge — sometimes, dangerously so. I am not a disabled person who expects the same treatment as able-bodied people. I do, however, expect reasonable accommodations. Levis Commons and Funny Bone failed on this account.

How do I feel today? Time for a shovel and a six-foot rectangular hole. Either that or lots of pain meds and muscle relaxers. Polly couldn’t find the shovel, so we are going the medication route. 🙂

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Should the Disabled Expect and Demand the Same Rights and Access Everyone Else Has?

Crippen Cartoons

I am disabled. I walk with a cane at all times, and I often have to use a wheelchair or motorized cart. This has been the case for me since 2009. For the longest time, I just walked with a cane, but over time, as my body and mobility slowly deteriorated, I started using a wheelchair if we were going to be out and about for any length of time. In February 2020, due to increasing physical and cognitive problems, I stopped driving automobiles. Later in 2020, I swallowed my enormous pride and used a motorized cart for the first time.

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires businesses to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities.

The purpose of the ADA is as follows:

(1) to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities;

(2) to provide clear, strong, consistent, enforceable standards addressing discrimination against individuals with disabilities;

(3) to ensure that the Federal Government plays a central role in enforcing the standards established in this chapter on behalf of individuals with disabilities; and

(4) to invoke the sweep of congressional authority, including the power to enforce the fourteenth amendment and to regulate commerce, in order to address the major areas of discrimination faced day-to-day by people with disabilities.

Discrimination is described this way:

For purposes of subsection (a) of this section, discrimination includes

(i) the imposition or application of eligibility criteria that screen out or tend to screen out an individual with a disability or any class of individuals with disabilities from fully and equally enjoying any goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations, unless such criteria can be shown to be necessary for the provision of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations being offered;

(ii) a failure to make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures, when such modifications are necessary to afford such goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to individuals with disabilities, unless the entity can demonstrate that making such modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of such goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations;

(iii) a failure to take such steps as may be necessary to ensure that no individual with a disability is excluded, denied services, segregated or otherwise treated differently than other individuals because of the absence of auxiliary aids and services, unless the entity can demonstrate that taking such steps would fundamentally alter the nature of the good, service, facility, privilege, advantage, or accommodation being offered or would result in an undue burden;

(iv) a failure to remove architectural barriers, and communication barriers that are structural in nature, in existing facilities, and transportation barriers in existing vehicles and rail passenger cars used by an establishment for transporting individuals (not including barriers that can only be removed through the retrofitting of vehicles or rail passenger cars by the installation of a hydraulic or other lift), where such removal is readily achievable; and

(v) where an entity can demonstrate that the removal of a barrier under clause (iv) is not readily achievable, a failure to make such goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations available through alternative methods if such methods are readily achievable.

Enacted into law in 1990 and amended in 2009, the ADA dramatically changed access to shopping, services, employment, and education that were previously inaccessible to people with disabilities. The law is not perfect. The ADA is littered with exclusions that allow businesses and churches to ignore the requirements of the law. Small businesses, in particular, are exempt from many of the law’s requirements. This is why I find it almost impossible to shop at stores in downtown Bryan and Defiance. Many of these businesses owners have no regard for people with mobility problems. Narrow store aisles and inaccessible restrooms make it impossible for disabled people to navigate their stores. So I don’t, choosing to do an increasing amount of shopping online.

Every two or three weeks, Polly and I, along with Bethany, drive fifty miles to Toledo to shop for groceries at stores such as Costco, Whole Foods, Fresh Foods, Fresh Tyme, and Meijer. All of these stores are required to follow the ADA (and they do, for the most part). As I navigate these stores (and others), I have a seat-level view of how the world looks to people with mobility-related disabilities. Things appear very different from a wheelchair or a motorized cart from how they look when you are walking freely on two feet. Even when walking with a cane, the world is very different from that of those unencumbered by haltingly navigating the store with a cane. When you walk with a cane, your mind and eyes are often focused on hindrances to your mobility; those things that could cause you to trip, stumble, or fall.

I could spend hours sharing stories about negative experiences I’ve had while shopping using a cane, wheelchair, or motorized cart. Sometimes, I will point out these issues to store managers or service employees, asking them to do better. For example, we love to eat the Texas Roadhouse in Findlay, Ohio. Great food and service. However, the restaurant stored chairs in a main walkway that required me to use a different egress that had a steep incline/decline (for me, anyway). I mentioned this to the general manager, and she quickly said, “you are right. I will have those chairs removed immediately.” And they have stayed removed.

Sometimes, store employees simply don’t pay attention to disabled people. Stockers at Meijer are notorious for leaving their stock carts in the middle of the aisles. Sometimes, I will educate them, suggesting they move their carts to one side of the aisle or the other. Other times, I will just sit there, waiting for them to get my hint. Some never do. I have mentioned this problem to Meijer management, but no changes have been made (even though this is a violation of the ADA). Several weeks ago, we were shopping at Fresh Tyme in Toledo. I was using a motorized cart. I stopped by the meat counter to buy some steaks, shrimp, and fish. I was parked three feet or so away from the counter. When the employee asked who was next I said, “I am.” However, he ignored me. He couldn’t see me due to the fact that he was standing directly in front of the scale. I politely (but secretly irritated) said, “if you move over a bit you can see me.”

disabled people
Crippen Cartoons

Here’s the question I want to answer: Should people with disabilities expect and demand the same rights and access everyone else has? Some disabled people say, YES! ABSOLUTELY YES! They are the people on Friday nights at 5:30 pm who are bound and determined to drive their motorized carts down crowded aisles, inconveniencing disabled and non-disabled people alike. They are the people who will horizontally park their cart, making everyone have to turn around and go the other way. Such people are inconsiderate, showing no regard for other people. I have had more than a few terse words with such people. I may be disabled too, but I pay attention to my surroundings and try to stay out of the way of other people. Granted, that same care is generally not shown to disabled people. I’ve had countless people walk in front of me, bump into me, and otherwise rudely and selfishly impede my path. Sometimes, I will say something, but most of the time I just curse loud enough under my breath that they hear me. One night years ago, we were leaving Great American Ballpark after a Reds baseball game. One of my sons was pushing my sorry ass back to the car. As we were crossing the crosswalk, a car sped up, trying to get by us before having to stop. They were unable to do so, so they stopped their car inches from my wheelchair. I showed my disapproval with a few choice swear words, and then, much to my son’s horror, I thumped their car with my cane. The driver wisely stayed in his car. I know, I know, not a good idea, but sometimes, I get tired of assholes showing no regard for me. I’m sure my sons, daughter, and Polly will have more than a few “Dad and His Wheelchair” stories to share at my funeral.

Unlike the aforementioned disabled people, I do not expect and demand the same rights and access everyone else has. I expect reasonable accommodations. I know the world will never be a level playing field for disabled people. Many things can be easily changed, and should be. Other changes might be prohibitively costly or impossible to do. During the summer, I attend dirt track races at Limaland Motorsports Park with my sons. We like to eat dinner before going to the races at Kewpee — a 50s-style hamburger joint. Their store on Allentown Road is not well-suited for disabled people. The seating is way too small, and it’s impossible to use the restrooms (unless you drop your pants outside of the door and back into the small closet-sized restroom). I don’t expect the owners of Kewpee to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to make their store ADA-compliant. Now, if and when they build a new store they will be required to follow ADA regulations. Moving to an ADA-compliant world will take decades. That doesn’t mean businesses shouldn’t be challenged to do better, but lasting change takes time (and the ADA itself needs improvement).

More than a few readers of this blog are mobility challenged. What are your thoughts about what I have written? Do you have horror stories to share? If you are an able-bodied adult, how do you view the disabled people you come in contact with when shopping or in other places where the public gathers? Please share your pithy thoughts in the comment section.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Bruce Gerencser