Helpless to Help
By Rhonda Sweet
Recently here at The Mix Coworking Space in Dallas, TX, we had the privilege to co-host a networking event with some students from the University of Texas-Arlington. We planned for the event months in advance, and, when the day finally came, we were set and ready to welcome ALL guests as usual.
Then I got the question that I am always happy to answer, because here at The Mix hospitality and meeting your need before you can ask is what we do!!!! Question: Do you have wheelchair accessibility? As I looked out the window I saw a gentleman in a chair sitting outside in the rain at the top of a steep, twenty-five step staircase. I answered with confidence and joy, “Yes!” Then I asked my volunteer to show the co-host to the elevator that provides access to the basement. About five minutes later, I heard that the elevator wasn’t coming down to the basement. Still confident that we could meet this need, I asked someone to go up to the second floor and see who is holding the elevator. When I heard that the elevator was, in fact, broken, a sunken feeling settled into the pit of my stomach—I wouldn’t be able to help my brother in need. I raced upstairs to see for myself and then contacted the Director of OPS for the church no avail. I now had to go tell tell the facilitator there was no way to get him downstairs. Then he said, “Oh they made it down?" “How?!” I thought to myself. So I went over to speak with the man—and discovered that he had been joined by another man in a chair. I apologized for their inconvenience, let them know that the elevator was broken, and that it probably wouldn’t be fixed before it was time for them to leave. I also took the time to share the MWF vision to construct a switchback herb garden that will be wheelchair accessible and allow people of all abilities to garden as they used the path to enter the basement.
The men responded with smiles and said, “No problem, we will figure something out." I walked away puzzled: 1) How did they get down here, and 2) How were they not worried about getting back up???
As the night came to an end and it was time for them to leave, they asked if there were any stairs that were dry and without mud. Two of the student volunteers and I escorted them to the inside staircase. The first gentleman asked to be pushed closer to the stairs, got out of his chair, used his arms to pull himself up the stairs, and asked the volunteer to carry the wheelchair upstairs. The second man had limited leg use as well, and followed the first man’s lead. It was then that I realized that they had done something similar outside in the rain to enter our building. That sunken feeling started creeping back into the pit of my stomach again, but when I saw their resilience and determination to not let anything stop them, I was encouraged and realized how important our garden entrance vision is. This garden switchback access is not “nice to have” but a necessity!
We have gotten a bid to construct this universally accessible entrance and garden, and it looks like it will cost over $52,000. So far, we have been unable to find a granting agency that will work with us to make this happen. If you know someone who might be able to help, or have a connection of some kind to a granting agency that is interested in this type of work, please share our dream and help us to make it a reality!