Hartford, Conn. — Stephanie Jergens, the owner of a local massage clinic that opened three years ago, can absolutely say with complete confidence that nothing about her business needs to be changed to be more accessible for different kinds of bodies.
“We’ve just never had any disabled clients before!” Jergens told us as she relaxed in her office, which is located up three flights of questionable-looking stairs in a historic building. “I’m not opposed to having disabled clients, of course,” she followed up quickly. “It’s just that I have never seen any come in!”
Trudy Rodriguez, a local ambulatory wheelchair user, begs to differ.
“I heard Stephanie was great at medical massage, which really helps me out with my joint and muscle pain. But I saw she was in an old building, so I emailed her asking about the architecture — you know, how many stairs there were and how wide the doors were and everything — and heard nothing back,” Rodriguez recounted.
This is a classic example of the chicken-or-egg catch-22 of inaccessibility: Disabled people are often unable to participate in society due to inaccessibility barriers. But then when it comes time to assess whether accessibility needs to be improved, the powers that be, having seen absolutely no disabled people attempting to access their services, assume that there is no need and that no clientele exists that would benefit.
When asked whether the historic building she is located in has a working elevator, Jergens became nervous and said she was totally willing to help out, hypothetically, should a disabled customer seek out her services. When we asked whether the bathroom was wheelchair accessible, she cut our conversation short, saying, “Oh no, that’s all the time I have, I’m sorry.” Then she rushed us out and shut the door, scurrying back into the depths of her clinic.