Blind man says he was stuck in Atlanta hotel elevator without braille due to digital control panel

ByZac Summers, WANF, CNNWire
Friday, April 7, 2023
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ATLANTA -- A visually impaired man is calling for change after he claims he was stuck in an Atlanta hotel elevator without braille.

Mario Bonds was in town late last month for work and was staying at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Midtown Atlanta. He said he didn't have a problem when he checked in because someone helped him to his room on the 17th floor. However, he said the hotel's elevator became a "safety hazard" once he tried using it on his own, WANF reported.

"I don't appreciate what I had to experience," Bonds said. "I got scared. I felt vulnerable."

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Bonds said he was trying to pick up his food delivery on a different floor. He got in the elevator and realized the control panel was a touch screen. The only buttons with braille were to open and close the elevator, call for an emergency, ring the alarm, and there's a wheelchair-accessible feature.

"Being in that elevator I was thrust into living the fact that I had a disability and that I could not overcome this situation because I can't see," Bonds said.

Bonds said he was stuck inside the elevator for at least ten minutes. He said a valet driver eventually helped him get back to his room but that the front desk staff was no help when he raised concerns.

"They felt attacked and told us, 'We didn't build the elevator and we feel attacked,' and I should have had enough sense to ring the alarm," Bonds recalled.

Chris Danielsen, with the National Federation of the Blind, told Atlanta News First while most elevators include buttons with braille and raised print, there isn't a transparent way for blind people to activate digital control panels.

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"This is a situation where I think the elevator manufacturer technically may or may not be in compliance with federal law, but the issue is they didn't design this with any consideration of how a person with a disability, how a blind person would interact with it," Danielsen said. "Not all blind or low vision people read braille. So, the verbal instructions the elevator gives should also be clear and should be in large print."

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990 to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

A spokesperson for the hotel sent Atlanta News First the following statement:

"The hotel is aware of these reported concerns. Providing a hospitable, welcoming environment is the essence of our business, and it is our policy to comply with all ADA regulations. We immediately took the necessary steps to investigate further, including a consultation with our elevator company regarding potential updates to our equipment. We are also conducting additional training to provide a more seamless guest experience for individuals in need of accessibility accommodations."

"It would be better for your action to match that statement because right now it just looks like boilerplate language," Bonds replied. "As disabled individuals, we're not asking for favors. We're asking to be included."

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