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Wheelchair use is above-average for San Francisco thanks to an elevator and lots of floor space. The bathrooms can also fit very large wheelchairs and have outward-opening doors. However, NB does not have /any/ automatic doors, and support bars are scarce, so there are still some challenges. Read below for notes on challenges and help.
Known Accessibility Issues
- No automatic doors
- Some very heavy doors to move and operate (people can help)
- Support bars are only available within one bathroom. They are otherwise not present in the space.
- No tactile visual accessibility aids (i.e. braille)
- No audio accessibility aids
- No automatic toilet or emergency call button in bathrooms
There are also many things that require upper mobility. And many things that will require speech to inform people of assistance.
Please let us know via NB-Discuss or Slack if you need assistance or if there are things missing from this list. People will usually try to help and we can always do things to make the space better and more accessible. We want to include everyone.
If you have a support person or care provider it is always a good idea to bring them with you if coming into the space for the first time.
I'd by lying if I said no one ever harassed me or said ableist things at Noisebridge. NB is influenced by society as a whole, just like any other space. People show up with their prejudices and sometimes vocalize them. However, to do so clearly violates our rule of "Be Excellent" to one another. If someone is being ableist I usually start by politely informing them of the behavior. If they continue, I will correct them again, raising my voice loudly so that people in the space know what is going on and can intervene. This has always stopped the behavior. Should someone continue a third time, they should be asked to leave the space (anyone can do this) and the issue can be address on NB-Discuss, Slack, or at Tuesday meetings.
Note: people with disabilities usually prefer you not to ask lots of questions about medical history, diagnosis, prognosis, etc. Why do you need to know "what happened" or "what's wrong" or "whether it's degenerative" so bad before any other conversation? You really don't and there are more interesting things to talk about. Your burning curiosity may be assuaged by getting to know someone for a while, or consulting an internet search engine.
On a whole, I feel very safe as a wheelchair user at Noisebridge. Harassment does not occur often and it is one of the safest spaces in SF for wheelchair users IMO, thanks to our "Be Excellent" rule and also our caring and supportive community. It does fall on our shoulders to educate people much of the time and fight for our access to the space, but people are generally well-intentioned and willing to help/listen. This is a big step up from many places in San Francisco.
Note: The front gate is very heavy and will require help or upper-mobility to push in, as will the elevator doors.
Noisebridge's main entrance gate has a buzzer doorbell button. It is usually the middle button under the intercom box. There is also key card access via RFID if you are a member or supporter. The buzzer notifies someone upstairs who will see you via a video camera and "buzz you in" during regular hours (usually 9am-11pm).
The front door buzzer is sometimes blocked by the supermarket's fruit stands (note, I have not seen this in the last couple years - 09/17/17), but they have been asked to stop doing this, and can be told to immediately remove the obstruction if you feel inclined to do so (on behalf of the tenants of 2169 Mission. There are many computerized workarounds to activate the electric door latch. See Getting Here and Access Control for more info.
Once the door latch is "buzzed" either by the button inside Noisebridge or by someone clicking the web-link to do so, the door must be pushed inward by hand or by power-chair, and it will automatically close and latch when released (note, it slams somewhat loudly). This door is quite heavy and many people may understandably need assistance pushing it in. A post to NB-Discuss or Slack is a good idea if you need assistance with the door, or you can ask for assistance from the many people coming and going from the space at all hours. Hopefully we will eventually get a full intercom system going to help with this.
If you want assistance when leaving, ask anyone at the space to accompany you to the door and help you out. I have always found people willing to do this. If you there is ever an issue though, please post to NB-discuss or Slack (or come to our Tuesday night meetings) so we can correct it.
Often, someone usually needs to go up to NB by the stairs, close all the elevator doors firmly, and bring the elevator down. There's a buzzer next to the call button so you can let the people upstairs know this needs to happen. When people upstairs hear that buzzer, someone will hopefully close the gates upstairs and bring the elevator down to the 1st floor. If this does not happen within 1-2 minutes, please press the button again (feel free to annoy people, that is what it is there for!) until the elevator starts coming down. Very often someone will come down and ask you what you need help with (many people are unfamiliar with this buzzer) so you can politely tell them you need someone to ride the elevator down to assist you.
The elevator doors are heavy and hard to manage, and are not automatically operated. Both the outer door and the inner gate must be moved when getting in and out.
The elevator doesn't always line up perfectly with the floor if the call button is held too long, so a person using a wheelchair or powerchair could have difficulty getting in or out of the elevator. If that were to happen, the elevator would have to be taken to a different floor and brought back again to the desired floor. See the elevator wiki Troubleshooting Tips for info on how to fix this.
Paths in the space
There is an ongoing effort to keep paths wide enough for wheelchair users. The classrooms have wide entrances and there are usually clear paths to tables.
Clutter and chairs can be a problem. Currently (09/17/17) only the book scanning room and the small parts bins (organized on Pony) are not wheelchair accessible.
Keep in mind that Noisebridge often has very limited access during large events, mostly due to all the chairs and people in the space. However, all wheelchair users have a right to be in the space. For large events, it is best to plan ahead and be very vocal to ask for assistance beforehand or at the event. Not everyone at NB is aware of our needs but they are usually responsive once an issue is brought up.
There are many low tables and desks in the space. Some areas, like the kitchen counters have high surfaces and are less accessible. Please, voice any concerns you have on NB-Discuss or Slack if this is limiting your use of the space. People are responsive and will usually correct the issue.
Many people at Noisebridge worked on the accessible bathroom. It is big enough to get many power mobility chairs inside and turn around (including my huge Merits Pioneer 2). It is big enough for most, if not all, manual wheelchairs. There is a second bathroom with a door that isn't very wide, so it is not accessible. Only the larger bathroom has support bars. Please let your voice be heard if you would like further modifications made to either bathroom or elsewhere in the space (ask via Slack or NB-Discuss).
It is important to keep the larger bathroom free of clutter, make sure trash bins or supplies would not block a person in a wheelchair from turning around or being able to open and shut the door.
If you need access stuff fixed at Noisebridge or would like help, definitely talk with people there or speak up on the Noisebridge-discuss mailing list. Tables can be lowered, paths cleared, machinery adapted, stuff hacked!
If you want to be helpful in general, keeping floors clear and furniture widely spaced so that there are wide paths in the space is very useful for people using wheelchairs, canes, or crutches.
People are generally helpful and will not "challenge" your accessibility needs. If you feel someone is being unexcellent, please let people know via NB-Discuss of Slack.