Choosing to remain inaccessible

The Boulder Book Store ought to be my bookstore of choice: locally owned, eclectic selection, new and used books – but it’s a three story (three and a half story?) building with no elevator, and the management has no intention of installing one. So I boycott it, unless I happen to be on the Pearl Street Mall, desperate for reading material. Like today (I know, I have no convictions).

I go in, I snag a used copy of Wicked, I go to the cash register.

“Good morning,” the clerk says, “Are you a member of our reader’s club?”
“No, you’re not accessible.”
“The building’s exempt from the ADA,” he says, quickly and smoothly. No fumbling, no thinking. “But we’re happy to get anything from upstairs that you’d like.”
“Not an acceptable substitute,” I say, getting out my wallet.
“Sorry. That’ll be $8.66.”

A completely emotionless exchange. Remind me to really boycott the Boulder Book Store.

Edited to add: How’s this for ironic (note that this event occurred in the past; I found it when googling for other information about the store’s inaccessibility):

Assistive Technology and Accessible Media in Higher Education: Sixth Annual Accessing Higher Ground Conference

Keynote Address – Nov. 13, 8:15 a.m. UMC

Beth Finke is a freelance writer, public speaker, and a commentator on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition.” Her topics include writing, disabilities, assistive technology, service dogs, and special education, among others. Her articles have been published in Writer Magazine, the Anchorage Press, Dog Fancy, and The Bark. Her recent book, Long Time, No See (University of Illinois Press) chronicles her struggle with juvenile diabetes, blindness, and a host of other challenges. She is also a grief counselor and works part-time as a model for university art classes.

Beth will do a book signing and reading at the Boulder Book Store, located on 1107 Pearl street, on Thursday, November 13, at 7:30 p.m. Note: the reading area of the Boulder Book Store is not wheelchair accessible. The talk can be watched on Closed Circuit TV from an accessible room on the first floor of the store.



  1. Penny

    If I’m ever in Boulder, I’ll avoid them too–what a clueless establishment. And an accessibility expert doing a booksigning there? Really? Yikes.

  2. Christiane

    And this happens in the US… I am really surprised. Every time I read your entries about the inaccessibillity I have to correct my image of the States.

  3. Patricia Tryon

    The attitude about accessibility is consistent, in my experience, with the store’s idea that it is way cooler than it is. Maybe it’s coming from Portland (and Powell’s, where Michael Powell does business in buildings at least as old as anything on Pearl Street Mall), which (used to have) an independent bookseller on about every corner, but imo the Boulder store and Tattered Cover, which I really should warn people about on my blog, are great reasons to shop the chains here.


  4. Katja (Post author)

    I love it – “way cooler than it is”!

  5. Daughter

    What did you think of Wicked? I gave up about a third of the way through the first time I started to read it. Should I give it another try?

  6. Katja (Post author)

    Christiane, I’ve been trying to think of how to respond to your comment.

    Despite the ADA, acessibility is variable here. A lot depends on the terrain, the age of the buildings, and the attitude/politics of the population. I find that the Rocky Mountain West is in general, more accessible than the Mid-Atlantic area. On the other hand, Washington DC seems to be more accessible than Denver.

    Another way to look at it is that we’re spoiled – so much is accessible that it’s a real shock when something isn’t.

    People don’t understand the law very well, either. A building like the one the Boulder Book Store is in does not have to renovate for accessibility – it was built before the ADA came into effect. However, if the owner does choose to do any renovations, s/he will probably have to bring the entire building up to current codes – a major disincentive to changing anything.

  7. Katja

    I thought you were the poster child for Wicked! You didn’t finish it?

    I haven’t gotten very far, I’ll let you know. I’ve read all the Oz books numerous times, so that probably helps. They’re both grimmer and quirkier than you would think based on the movie.

  8. Scott Rains

    What an exquisite irony – an ally speaking in an inaccessible space; a space whose inaccessibility is held in place by the limits of the ADA.

  9. Mouse

    Do they offer microphones so that the veiwing audience confined to the first floor can ask questions? Of course, if you are going to boycott the store you won’t be able to publicly expose the irony! BTW, I adore the rocks. They are beauties! Can I have them when you’re done?

  10. Kay Olson

    Ugh. It’s so painful when independent bookstores are the ones who need the kick in the pants on inaccessibility. In my experience, independent booksellers are as or more likely than other retail businesses to be in quirky old buildings with inaccessible second floors, etc. They are why Amazon is so preferred by me: I can look at any book I want without begging some employee to go find it. I can look at books I don’t know I want to look at!

  11. Katja (Post author)

    Mouse: here’s the original rock image:

  12. KK

    Hmm. Just another good reason for me to avoid the Boulder Bookstore. Have you checked out Troubadour Books? Isn’t it practically across the street from where you work? I bought some really great books from the owner at a book fair in December. She was very nice, very helpful. I don’t know if the store itself is accessible.

  13. wheelchairdancer

    this has been bugging me for a couple of days now because my local bookstore is also inaccessible. There’s a cafe upstairs. But there’s no goddam elevator. They are QUITE happy to bring me coffee from upstairs, but as I frequently point out, that’s not the point. The excuse is always that the building is exempt from the ADA — even though they did a pretty thorough renovation when they took it over 4 or 5 years ago.

    Guess what company it is …. yes, Book Sense.


  14. Marie

    This is sad.


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