I was diagnosed with a progressive muscular dystrophy at the age of 34 and began using a wheelchair at the age of 40. I am a certified Assistive Technology Professional and Accessibility Inspector. Making Waves for Good is my company, and we specialize in public speaking about the “You Decide” movement and ADA Usability. The latter encompasses looking at where facilities meet the basic ADA Standards and identifying things that would be better for all users, and explaining that it doesn’t have to be hard, scary, or expensive.
I grew up in San Antonio and have degrees from Texas A&M and Midwestern St Universities, but now live in Phoenix. I recently drove through Texas with my fiancé, Paul, on the way to New Orleans to give a presentation on Assistive Technology Abandonment. I’m going to share with you some of the amazing accessibility finds, and fails, that I found on my travels.
Fredericksburg, in the Texas Hill Country, has become wine country. Of the fortyish (but seemingly hundreds) of wineries and tasting rooms along Highway 290, we ventured into Messina Hof and Slate Theory and found they offer two very different experiences. Messina Hof’s décor is more traditional and classic and their wines elegant, while Slate Theory goes for modern and industrial décor and bold flavors.
Messina Hof offers on-site lodging, including the President’s Haus which was advertised for “Limited Mobility Access” and their staff calls the “ADA cottage”. I had looked at the photos online and was excited that the space was so lovely. I knew the rugs could be moved and the furniture rearranged as needed, which I often do; however, I didn’t expect the bed to be even taller than it looked online and was disappointed that I was unable to shower due to the lack of a built-in shower bench. These deficiencies cast a shadow over an otherwise comfortable stay.
Austin has long been the capital of live music. I’d originally thought I’d take Paul down to 6th Street, but a local said we might be more comfortable over on Rainey Street. I was glad we took her advice because we found a gem there. Augustine is located in a home originally built in 1889, yet there are ramps from the street up to the bar and another from the entrance around to the back patio and inside. I indulged in one of the handcrafted signature cocktails, an espresso martini, and it did not disappoint. My fiancé, a beer and wine aficionado, enjoyed a local draft beer.
We stopped in Dallas because I had a television appearance on Good Morning Texas with Jane McGarry (see cover photo) to promote my newly-released memoir, Rough Waters: From Surviving to Thriving with a Progressive Muscular Dystrophy.
We chose to dine at the Meddlesome Moth in the Dallas Arts District because it boasts “a full bar and one of the city’s best beer menu featuring 42 draught beers and 70 or so bottles/cans”, and walked/rolled over from our hotel. The restaurant was open and inviting, with funky décor including stained-glass windows of Jimmy Hendrix, Elvis, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Unfortunately they decided to put an odd door stop on the floor of the women’s restroom which, in combination with the location of the sinks and the walls, prevented the door from opening wide enough to accommodate my power wheelchair.
After appearing on Good Morning Texas, we headed over to Globe Life Field to catch a Texas Rangers game. Beautiful and air conditioned, they had enough accessible seating at a variety of price points that we could sit anywhere that suited us. We choose spaces above the left outfield bleachers. Getting our beers from the bar, the server stopped in the middle of putting our order together, “I’ll finish after the National Anthem plays.” All activity in the giant stadium ceased for the duration. The reverential silence was enthralling. Security staff showed us to our seats, which were on the concourse above the bleachers. I was grateful these accessible seats were separate from the rest of the concourse and no one was able to stand directly behind me. Seeing Max Scherzer pitch his first game for the Rangers, in this gorgeous space, was enough to make me understand my fiancé’s love of the game. If this is baseball, count me in.
Until next time, Texas. Hopefully it’ll be in the spring when the Bluebonnets bloom.
Cover photo courtesy Paul A. Creasman.
Heather C. Markham is an engineer, assistive technology professional, public speaker, competitive Para Surfer, educator, ADA architectural barriers specialist, golfer, award-winning international photographer and author of Rough Waters: From Surviving to Thriving with a Progressive Muscular Dystrophy.