Disability and bed height requirements
Disability and bed height requirements

Bed height for the disabled is a real problem

This is an article written by a friend of mine, Stephen Mitchell, who needs to get his story out to the public

The minivan passes by the NY/PA Welcome Center on Rt. 81 North. I glance over the valley where Conklin and Kirkwood sit and to the hill in the distance where beyond lays the confluence of the Susquehanna and Chenango rivers, the focal point of where William Bingham sent Joshua Whitney to settle the land that will one day become the Triple Cities. A warm feeling awash with fond memories envelops me and alas I know I am home.

In the fall of 1987 I suffered a career ending spinal cord injury playing rugby. It was a good career having played at a high level representing the US and playing with South Africa. Since then I have been mostly relegated to wheelchair life. Fortunately I have been left with enough mobility to travel independently with one caveat having arisen mostly over the last 20 years. I require a bed that is close in height to my wheelchair. This affords me the ability to transfer safely or at all. The crux of the matter is that the ADA has no rules governing bed height while having a plethora of mandates regarding all other matters of accessibility including toilet height. Still, does it not seem plausible, humane and good business that the bed height would be considered for the few rooms required to be accessible in every motel and hotel?

For nearly a decade I had been staying at a motel on Upper Front St. The accommodations were well suited for my disability. Fast forward to a new owner five years ago and with a change to "nose bleed" beds, I was forced to stay elsewhere. Luckily, the motel next door had a somewhat acceptable room. Despite having to contend with my legs hanging off the twin bed, sitting on a hard wooden bath bench and a few years ago having to get them to rotate the mattress since I was nearly falling onto the floor while sitting on the bed's edge, I continued to stay there.

In June of 2020 I made a visit to see my parents who now live in Endicott. My Dad's health was failing and time with them both was paramount. It was an impromptu trip. After spending the afternoon with them I sought out my usual stand by to stay at. Unfortunately the room was booked and all the other handicapped rooms had beds too high. I then traveled to or called 6 other motels only to find the same situation. These six were evenly split between being privately or chain owned. Two of them were a no go as their measurements indicated the beds were also too high. Three of the other four insisted they could accommodate me yet after traveling to each one and visually inspecting, the same situation prevailed. The last place I visited was at 11:30 pm only to find the same situation and to be relegated to driving through the night the four exhausting hours back home.

The only motel that I took to task was the last one as my ire had at last reached a crescendo. I left my name with the desk clerk requesting a phone call to discuss the matter. As I figured, when the call came a few days later, the manager was defensive and even claimed that people whom are disabled don't like low beds as they are harder to get out of. Inane as that statement is, I pressed them by asking how it is their customers manage to get off the toilet then as it is required to be at the same height as I required the bed to be. After conferring with the home office I received an email simply stating they were under no laws to accommodate me.

Just consider how demeaning it is to have to call God knows how many motels in the Triple Cities asking each one to take a tape measure, pull back the comforter and measure their bed height. What if upon arrival the measurement is off or said it was done but wasn't? Do I need to make multiple reservations to increase my odds and pay for all of them? What a futile and exasperating exercise to be relegated to! We are now a generation and a half removed from the inception of the ADA and still the hotel/motel business somehow did not get the memo that disabled people have money too and the same desire and need to travel as everyone else.

Bingham's mandate to Whitney was to have his land settled with good productive people. So when I reflect on all these inherently good things I've done as a citizen of the Triple Cities, I merely consider my contribution an extension and continuation of those earlier chosen people of stalwart character. When asked, I'm proud to exclaim where I'm from even though I now live a couple hundred miles south. I think back on those days:

I'm the person who delivered those baked goods for DiLascia's so you could eat them at The Carleton, Tego's, Number 5, The Schnitzelbank or What's Your Beef. I'm the person who put up a Kuss Brothers party tent in your backyard. I'm the person who made the cardboard box at Binghamton Container that you bought. I'm the person who once painted the entire store front of Philadelphia Sales on Clinton St. I'm the person who served you that libation at Thirsty's Tavern. I'm the person who replaced all the vending machines at GAF so you could enjoy a fresh cup of coffee. I'm the person who pumped your gas at Miller's Pep Station in Conklin. And I'm the person who sold you those shoes at Endicott Johnson in the Binghamton Plaza.

Should I overtly decree that I deserve some fairness in reciprocity for my well intended participation in the Triple Cities story? Perhaps, perhaps not. Maybe the stakes speak for themselves. You see, my dad has passed and my mom had been able to come my way during 2021 thanks to family members but now that she has cancer that is not feasible. And so my dilemma weighs heavy on me having not seen her these past 6 months and my disappointment in the "home of the square deal" is because it doesn't seem so square anymore.

We have safety rails, wheel chair ramps and wide doors, so why not proper bed heights for the disabled community.