Recently, my roommate and I had a close encounter of the elevator kind. We went to see The Potter Puppet Pals at a venue in Central Square, and the bouncer asked if I'd like to use the elevator.
"Sure," I said.
He opened a door behind him, leading to a tiny room with a button panel on the wall and a big red button next to it.
"All right," he said. "It goes slow, but it goes. I'll control it from out here--Oh! Don't touch that button."
Kathleen leapt way from the big red button, and I began to reconsider this whole idea. We'd both been watching a lot of Buffy lately, we did not think this would end well.
"Okay! Oh. It's not. Here--," the bouncer reached in and fiddled with the red button we'd been instructed not to touch.
"Stairs! We'll take the stairs!"
"Are you sure? It's--"
"Sure, very sure!" To cement this assertion I exited the elevator before his red-button pushing sent us plummeting to our dooms.
I had the choice. The same way I usually avoided the similarly terrifying elevator in my undergrad academic building. The way most able-bodied people do when faced with a climb of less than a few stories.
Many people don't. For many people with disabilities--myself usually included--elevators aren't a convenience. They're essential. And having a horror-movie-esque room that descends is not enough. Having a creaking car with a phone I'm not entirely sure would contact anyone isn't enough. Not having an alternate route to downstairs seating because you have seating upstairs isn't acceptable--I'll go to a Panera with an elevator (granted, you have to go to an adjoining building, but still) before I'll go to a coffeeshop where I'd have to carry a drink, my cane and myself upstairs.
At least, though, humanity didn't readily adapt these. Paternoster elevators are a concept I discovered this week reading A.S. Byatt's Possession. Aside from simply being a terrifying idea (video below) they are a prime example of elevator as convenience as opposed to necessity.
What things that are convenient for others are essential for you?