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Bangor woman with ALS hopes to bring accessibility awareness to others

Tammy and David Michaels are hoping to promote accessibility awareness in the community.
Tammy and David Michaels are hoping to promote accessibility awareness in the community.(WABI)
Published: Aug. 20, 2020 at 7:11 PM EDT
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) -It was about nine months ago when Tammy Michael’s eyes were opened to the accessibility struggles so many people face.

“I’ve been into a business where it was a standard stall with a bar and I had to use the restroom with the door open and someone had to help me. And, that’s hard. There’s no privacy and all I did was get stuck.”

That’s when she began using a wheelchair due to the loss of her legs from ALS and found going to a lot places she loved just weren’t an option anymore.

“What’s happening is they’re only doing the minimum for making a business accessible,” she says.

Valerie Fletcher is the Executive Director of the Institute for Human Centered Design in Boston, Massachusetts.

“You know, recognizing that people mostly want to manage on their own they’re not looking for a lot of your time,” she says.

For more than four decades their mission has been to show others how design can help with socially equity including helping businesses make their spaces manageable for people of all ages and abilities which is a win-win for everyone.

“They will come back if they feel like they’re welcome. It’s these kinds of magical moments that make people feel like life is good you know, that I still have a choice. I still can control my destiny. I could still interact with others. Whatever it takes,” she says.

They provide a number of services like the New England ADA Center which provides information and training for people and businesses on the American Disabilities Act. They welcome anyone looking guidance to contact them about their rights, obligations or how they can improve accessibility.

“It’s not just restaurants but actually businesses as well. Like, I just can’t go down an aisle because the aisles are too small.”

At one point, her husband, David, decided to see for himself what it’s like to deal with accessibility issues when he used a wheelchair for a night out together.

“It’s not something that I think is done maliciously, it’s just your non-recent situation, you don’t think about those things there are some significant issues with accessibility for people in wheelchairs.”

One of the places they love to go is Mason’s in Brewer because of how convenient and accommodating they are.

“Not only are they super accommodating just coming in I don’t feel like I’m inconveniencing anybody when I come in. They are willing to pick a good spot for me. I don’t have to worry or feel judged,” said Michaels.

It’s become one of their favorite places to go in the area.

“You don’t always hear that and it’s really neat seeing that and coming out of the blue just hearing that your their favorite place and we love you and I don’t think it’s any better than that,” says Jake Bridges, General Manager of Mason’s.

Bringing accessibility awareness to as many people as possible is important to David and Tammy as they continue her journey with ALS the disease which led to her depending on the support a wheelchair provides her every day now.

“We’re really hoping that just calling some details to local area businesses that we might be able to help effect a change for mobility for everyone in the state of Maine,” says Michaels.

“There are other people besides the people who can walk and do the normal things but there are people like myself. Think about us as well. And the minimum is not enough,” says Tammy.

Here are some helpful links for business owners looking for information on accessibility:

U.S. EEOC

https://www.eeoc.gov/ada30-americans-disabilities-act-1990-2020

U.S.Department of Labor

https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/disability/jobaccommodations

Maine DOL

https://www.maine.gov/labor/workplace_safety/index.html

OSHA

https://www.osha.gov/employers

Copyright 2020 WABI. All rights reserved.

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