Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Trapped, forced to crawl, threatened and no one sees a problem.

First thing I learned today: Hydraulic powered Nail guns are REALLY, REALLY LOUD.

Second thing I learned today: Able bodied people are not very smart.

I went out today at 11:50 in my wheelchair to see how accessible the elevator was for my 2:30 taxi ride, but the hall was EMPTY, break time it seems. I did make it to the elevator but it was between floors and filled with garbage, with the door half open.

I waited and waited and eventually the assistant manager showed up. I told her that I AM getting a taxi ride at 2:30 to the dentist (since I was told that I would only have work outside my apartment for one day, and specifically asked the manager to notify me of all times of inaccessibility in order to make appointments.) She informed that the elevator was well and truly broken. Well, when would it be fixed because I am going to that 2:30 appointment?

“Can’t you just…….slide down the stairs on your bum?” (I live on the top floor, so including landings, 8 flights of stairs in all)

I said, “That is really quite difficult when one is trying to CARRY your wheelchair too.”

“Oh,” She looked at the wheelchair, “Well it can’t be THAT heavy.”

I stared pointedly at her. And she said she would GO back down and tell the Manager I had an appointment at 2:30. She came up to say that the elevator guys were working and the manager would call when there was news. I said I would be surprised. Why, because the manager has run away from me, turned her back on me, but not SPOKEN to me in the 11 months since I got into the wheelchair.

So I am here, amidst ripped up flooring (and nails everywhere) realizing, that forget the dental appointment, if there is a fire, I am, literally, toast! I go back out and get my camera and call Linda because now she will need to come home to carry the wheelchair down as I crawl down the stairs. I just find the thought that, “Hey, you can crawl down to the ground floor can’t you.” As the OBVIOUS solution to be one which mystifies me. Is this what the manager would find acceptable at a restaurant, “This way, please drag yourself with your arms to the table.” Or the doctors or bosses at work? Oh, need to get to your clinic, just spend your energy and 20 minutes pulling yourself up one stair at a time. Or is it because I AM the only wheelchair in the building and so everyone else just ‘takes the stairs’ leaving me to…

I head back out and they have ripped up more flooring but I do not have a picture of the broken elevator because they have managed to get the door all the way closed. However, the workers tell me that the elevator repair people have left! And if they “have time” they will “try and get back.” I say to him that I notice his crew of four people isn’t here today either (just the two still).

“Yup, shitty crew.” Is his philosphical answer.

“Will you be working on this floor tomorrow?” I asked (as I have a 10:30 a.m. medical appointment – and this was supposed to be just for MONDAY after all).

He shrugged, we finish when we finish, then we move to the next floor.

15 minutes later Linda calls from work (several miles away), the manager has just phoned HER (not me, who is….in the same building), to convince HER that it would be best for everyone to convince me to crawl down the stairs on my bum (how I am getting back up no one has thought of yet). Linda said, no, she is in a wheelchair for a reason and I will come home and bring her down the stairs IN THE WHEELCHAIR. The manager flipped and said, “You can’t do that!”

Linda said, “I can, and I will.”

“But you’re hurt your back. (and maybe we will be liable….)”

She then tells Linda that the elevator is not electric but on a pulley system so this sort of thing will happen again, and more often and that it would be “best for everyone” if, the next ground floor apartment opens up, I was moved into it. (Why not: “The elevator is down and we will have it fixed as soon as possible.” Instead of the whole ‘you are a nuisance and this will keep happening so you better move!’)

Well, no we are not moving, we searched high and low to find this EXACT floor plan because I am EXTREMELY noise sensitive. So the study is shielded by all the other rooms to make a sound proof cocoon I can write in, and on the TOP floor with carpet so there is no noise from above OR below. To move to the ground floor where I hear the cars come in and out all day, where I hear the laundry and the people above me all day and where I still only have one accessible door might do THE MANAGER a large favor. But no, I pay full rent, and I am entitled to the rights of the building which includes the accessibility which comes with it.

What irks me is how the Manager, is so openly anti disability. It is bad enough that she refuses to accept we are a couple (even though we are LEGALLY married), but it is like a couple where one is black and one is white, and the person ONLY speaks to the white member, even if it is the black person in the couple who complains. I am in the building, I am the one needing to get out, I am the person who requested to be notified immediately of access problems and when I find out that I cannot leave and complain she does not call me or come up and see me but calls miles away to my partner’s place of WORK? She is a bigot and her name is Fran.

Her implication and threat that these sorts of elevator problems will “continue” unless we move out or to the ground floor makes me like her not so much. Since I have found out it is ILLEGAL in Canada to discriminate on a basis of disability.

I called an advocate at the action committee of people with disabilities and they suggest that I a) call the local TV station right now as “woman stranded in apartment while manager threatens not to repair elevator” makes good news and b) I call the human right commission and go after the manager/building owner for sexual orientation and discrimination on the basis of disability (which was kind of odd because the person on the phone couldn’t say the word ‘lesbian’ or ‘sexual orientation’, they would just say, ‘well she discriminated against you on that……..that other thing.”)

I talked to Linda and we aren’t going to call the news, what we ARE going to do is write a letter to the owner telling him everything which occurred, our concerns, and that we called an advocate and this is what they recommended but that we want to hear what he has to say regarding our concerns first.

My care worker arrives late because, the workers won’t let her through, she is not impressed. She has been told the elevator will work at 2:00 and a sign is in place on the ground floor saying that. Well, 2:00 arrives and I prepare to leave. Linda is late because she is trapped in the stairwell where the workers have put the hydraulic pump. She tells them, “The girl in the wheelchair is coming DOWN this stairwell.” We come out, they have piled their trash and garbage bins in the corner. Linda is ‘excitable’ and says firmly, “I said, we were coming down.” The guy takes the garbage bin and instead of bringing it into the hall, takes it down to the landing, where it is just as impassable. Then his partner is bring up sheets of plywood in the elevator.

I tell Linda, let’s try the other elevator because the Taxi has already arrived. Linda goes ahead with the chair as I pull my legs, then go down a step and another, then pull my legs and straighten them out, again and again, and again, a landing and again, over and over until the bottom. I struggle into the wheelchair and Linda is there to push me, which is good because I am knackered (or ‘cream crackered’ for those who like Cockney).

Linda pushes me down the long hallway (as we had to use the far stairwell) and as she sees us coming Fran stands mid hallway, blocking our path. She points a finger at me and says, “You’ll have to move to the ground floor; this will happen again!” in a very declaratory, threatening way.

I go to the taxi where I can hear her sounding off about me to the workers; “Everything has to be HER way.” She says to the people repairing the elevator, “Everything at the last minute.” She continues telling them about me, and how bad a person I am because, apparently when I asked her to notify me if there wasn’t access to the elevator, and when she didn’t I wanted to know when the elevator would work was simply “too much.”

I am not moving because some woman feels that she is inconvenienced by having to call elevator repair people when her hired crew ripping up the carpets are already screwing things up. I am not moving because a woman who is supposed to be the landlord, violates safety rulings by not notifying me of when I am in hazard of evacuation. And I am not moving simply because this woman is a bigot who didn’t want to rent to us “Sisters” in the first place and for some reason HATES people in wheelchairs.

It wasn’t always like this, when I won the book of the year award, she was so proud to know me; when the national paper ran big reviews of my book, she lingered to talk to me. Only since I started using the wheelchair has she not spoken a single word to my face…until today, to threaten me, that unless I do what she wants, my ability to come and go from the building will be in jeopardy.

Well, the floor is NOT done, but I am for the day. I went to the dentist for my first crown and they kept saying “this is routine” and I kept saying, “Routine! I have Nightmares like this!” as they used these pliers to pull out the temporary crown that was put on while I was under sedation (Wasn’t there a torture scene like this in a few movies?). Can you tell I don’t like dentists?

We have a medical appointment at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow morning and are leaving at 10:00. Linda went to ask the manager, “Will we be able to leave? Will there be access?” The manager could not make any promises.

I was forced to CRAWL, Linda had to take time off work to carry my “it doesn’t look that heavy” chair down…I guess I want to know why.


doctor trousers said...

please give us her details! i will wake in the middle of the night to call her pretending to be a lawyer who is going to sue her! what an utter tool.

Moggy said...

Holy goat-licking Jebus. After all of that, I second the idea of alerting the media -- the reason that some people act like that is because they can get away with it.

Like you said, she's hoping to harass you until you relocate, and you're figuring on not letting her force you to move, but I think you shouldn't even let her get away with the attempt. That'll just teach her to do it again to any future disabled/gay people, knowing that she'll usually succeed and at worst simply won't be able to get rid of the person. Better for the "at worst" to include something that's unpleasant enough for her to feel motivated to at least *pretend* to comply with the law.

Lisa Harney said...

I want to utter many profanities, but I won't. I will offer sympathies. :(

Lene Andersen said...

Call a lawyer. Call a lawyer now. I think the owner might take a letter from a lawyer seriously. I think the owner might then have a wee chat with the manager and assistant manager. This is unbelievable.

FridaWrites said...

"She is a bigot and her name is Fran" sounds like a sharp beginning for a book chapter or poem on this topic.

The expectation that you crawl out on your behind is not only humiliating but dangerous. I wonder why she doesn't she think of access any time she does any work on the elevator, the door, the sidewalks, or your floor or why she does and ignores it. You don't have to hang around with people using mobility devices very long to see the obstacles and to think of them automatically. Her behavior of ignoring you sounds pathological; she needs help in some way.

Wendryn said...

Call the TV station if it isn't dealt with. This is ridiculous and becoming dangerous.

Good luck!

KateJ said...

I'm sure you can't be the only person who relies on using the lift. If there are that many stairs, I wouldn't want to have carry heavy shopping up... and don't any of the other tenants have elderly relatives who might visit? Might one of them not break his or her ankle? This is most definitely discrimination aimed at you (or you and Linda as a couple). I look forward to hearing the outcome.

Veralidaine said...

Sometimes I wonder if this could possibly all really be happening to you! There are photos, and there is Linda, and we all know it all is, but I just want this to be a bad dream or a beautifully written social allegory by someone who in reality is getting all the help she needs promptly and competently. It is not often that I need a drink this early in the morning, but after reading about this, I not only need a drink but am seriously contemplating showing up in Canada, telling Ms. Bigot that I'm your cousin (who happens to be a big shot lawyer stateside- I'm not really but I can pull it off pretty damn well, and I do know some big shot lawyers) and she had better quit giving you such a hard time before she finds herself slapped with a multi-million dollar lawsuit.

ms bond said...

I think that qualifies as being held hostage. I believe that you should add that to the list of crimes this woman has commited. Write the letter- it shows an attempt at diplomacy (which she has not attempted) then alert the media...let it be known what has happened. And take lots of pictures. Hell, take a picture of you crawling up the stairs...this should result in a stone throwing mob at the manager's door (a purely allegorical statement). You are such a strong person. This lady is such a freakin bigot. Just wanted to let you know I join the rest of your fans in saying this really really pisses me off (I searched for a more polite way to say that butthere isn't one).

Elizabeth McClung said...

Dr. Trousers: I would be happy to, unfortunately Canada is not as litigious as the US so they might think it was a joke.

Moggy: Yeah, we contacted a lawyer who said it is human rights issue but isn't sure about the access issue in private property (meaning there may be no case law for "woman trapped in building and landlord refuses to fix elevator in timely fashion"). But have no fear, I do not give in to threats, and soon I think she will fear the sight of me more than I of her.

Lisa: Thanks, they were back with the nail gun this morning (sigh) - one day I will get some good sleep.

Lene: the lawyer passed it to human rights which I have called but they haven't returned my calls, I also am going to the tenancy board which has it's own court - and letters of the complaint are sent to the owner, not the manager. IT seems that IF I had called the Fire Department yesterday the whole building would have been inspected as they had crashed the elevator AND blocked fire escape access to at least one of the two remaining evacuation points. Not much good now, I suppose...unless it happens again - and in my surreal world, I can't make any assurances it won't. Sadly all I have a picture of is a) closed door of broken elevator, b) hallway strewn with nails on boards but actually too blurry for good use and c) the heaps they left in the stairwell when the left since we were obsesses with keeping the appointment and crawling instead of taking pics.

Frida: I think the person does need help, she puts up notices all the time, for example when a car was broken into an vandalized (something the landlord is responsible to monitor) she put up notices blaming the tenants and threatening evictions if people didn't stop "leaving valuables in thier cars to stop attracting the wrong element") - so the whole "You are the problem" isn't limited to me - the time she put up a notice saying no one was allowed to have a guest over the Xmas to New Years Period has become sort of a building joke (this is why I refer to her as a frustrated Prison guard - there is this stance and attitude where she really wants to turn on the fire hoses on people).

Wendyrn: Linda has not given me permission to do what I wish, I will play the crip card to the fullest and have a sob in my voice while I know she, with her, "Everyone is wrong, why don't they do what I tell them" attitude will come off not so well. But the elevator is working...this minute so I am off to my appointment.

Gaina said...

I am utterly outraged to the point of speechless at this one. How DARE than woman a) suggest that it's acceptable for you to lose your dignity by going up and down the stairs like that and b) treat you like a senile old biddy and bypass you by calling Linda!

I personally would call the news networks, as this type of person doesn't do anything to improve the situation util you indulge in some hardcore public humiliation.

Some people just cannot stand to expose themselves to an aspect of disability, I am sure it's a phobia but I can't find the name for it right now.

Oh yes, and what she said to the builders about you? That's slander. I say sue the bitch.

Tayi said...

Ugh, she sounds like a thoroughly horrible person. I'm sure you'll be able to make her wish she'd never messed with you, one way or another (I personally like the idea of calling a news station), but it would be so nice if instead of making life even harder than it already is, people would turn their efforts to making it easier. I will never understand why people prefer to put more energy into making life difficult than it would take to make life easier.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Kate J: no, I am not the only person even with a disability on my floor, though with Fran they tend to move out often. I expect it will involve the tenancy board and court and be a long time resolved unfortunately - we however, thanks to medicos, are used to that.

Veralidaine: I appreciate the sentiment and support but Fran is just one of those people who is always right and if you showed up to threaten her legally, then whoever you represent must be a bad person. (haha) - I think as a friend said to me, make reasonable conversations with reasonable people; which in this case might be the general landlord/manager or owners, who likely have no idea how the landlord in THIS building (of the many they own) is operating.

Ms. Bond: I was truely upset yesterday becuase I can't say I have ever gone to SUCH extreme lengths to make it to a DENTAL appointment - but there was just no way I was going to accept any excuse, even if I had to repell on a rope out of my window - that woman was not stopping me. Today I realize that her actions to me were in line with how she views many of the tenants and why for example, she evicts about 1/2 of the people on the floor she lives (the ground floor) every 6 months or so. And why the rest move. However, she is required to provide access and cannot enter my premises with advance notice AND a reason so I am staying put. But what a lot of energy on both sides which could be used to live life better, no?

Gaina: I think she calls Linda because she truely is afraid of disabilities in some manner. Which only gives me more opportunity in choosing to meet with her and request that she contact me for a host of things (in writing of course) to see the outcome. One of my care workers believes that she is telling the workers to ignore me as I am "faking it" but I cannot confirm that, nor do I think I will be able to. It was just one of the situations I have experience before which falls under "hate crimes" - she turned my request (which is part of her obligation as building manager) into a hatred of me which evidenced itself in ways of treating me, talking to me (or not talking to me), threatening me, physically threatening me (any time someone stands diliberately in the middle of a hall when the see a manual wheelchair coming I see as a form of physical violence, they are forcing the other person into a position of helplessness and domination (as they can't go anyway or escape) before they decide to act), to the classic "victim" justifications which I am have heard before (when people throw things at lesbains holding hands, etc "If they just didn't flaunt it" or "Why can they only think of themselves and not how it affects others" - typical sort of statement from the person who THREW the stone or vandalized the car, etc).

Tayi: I completely agree that if she spend the time and energy she does on "policing" her tenents instead on communication (like: "I've called the workers, we may not be able to fix it in time this time, but I will make sure that when this happens again you are notified right away.") building bridges between herself and the tenents, this could be a very different building. But still, not moving!

Raccoon said...

try to get all communiqué in writing. Try to tape record all verbal comments (a camcorder would be better). Witnesses are good -- did you get business cards from any of the carpet people? How are you on terms with the other people on your floor, or other people in the building? Prior tenants?

Before you give us her phone number... does she have caller ID on her phone?

I like the idea of calling the fire department the next time you get trapped. But, talking to the lawyer and the local human rights person will, at the very least, give you ideas on what you are allowed to do.

cheryl g. said...

Fran and people like her are why karmic retribution should be instantaneous...

With the destruction workers making it hard to get out, are you still up for meeting Saturday? I saw the forecast was for crappy weather but if you're game and able so am I. I do respectfully ask that you don't harm yourself for this. If it won't work I can visit after the Coho is back in service.

Marla said...

Oh my God! And you were even nice in that you did not call the local news channel! This sort of stuff makes me so angry. I can't imagine crawling down all those steps one by one. And to go to a scary dentist appointment. You are amazing.

I really hope you can fight this place. It seems so out of line and illegal. Please keep us posted.

Daisy said...

That's so fucked up, and I am so sorry, Elizabeth. :(

Elizabeth McClung said...

Raccoon: good advice I want to use the camera on movie mode as it has a decent mic on it. Talked to a lawyer, left a message at the human right commission (ironic how even they use the dread "voicemail" which is a modern version of "don't call us, we'll call you"). And know the bylaws under which I can call the fire department. I do however wish that my future is one in which access is freely ensured and all goes smoothy, that is what I will continue to hope for.

Cheryl: I am up, and I am ready, elevator full of loose nails or not - see the email I sent and see what you think - oh, human contact, I am all a jitter!

Marla: I will fight for my right to be treated as a tenent in good standing, and my right as a human being - but how that will work out, I don't know - it might be another 10 months of her running away!

Daisy: No worries, I think this falls under "shit happens" - where is my special brew? I've been waiting?