Most days create quite an adventure for me as I deal with places, things and sources of information that aren’t accessible, not to mention attitudes that aren’t respectful or inclusive. Some days go better than others.
Particularly memorable is a recent trip I made with several friends to go shopping in a large metropolitan city (which I won’t name to protect its identity). The first challenge was to find an accessible parking spot. We drove around for ages looking for one that was free: those we did find were occupied by vehicles without the authorized pass. Once we were finally parked, I started to cross at the lights of a busy downtown street. Halfway through the intersection, one of the wheels of my chair got stuck in a streetcar track. Frantically, we tried to dislodge the wheel. Meanwhile, the light turned yellow and then red, and we were still in the middle of the road. Cars with impatient drivers crept closer and honked their horns – which did not facilitate calm problem-solving... Finally the wheel was free, and we had not been run over. We reached the sidewalk, hearts still beating hard, just in time to hear a pedestrian scornfully call out, “Retard!”
At the entrance of the shopping concourse, I pressed the automatic opener and the door opened. But before I had time to get through, it closed, trapping me in the entrance.
At lunch my friends expressed their surprise at all the barriers I faced. As they contemplated the challenges, I suddenly asked, “So what are you going to do about it?
My question was met with startled looks.
I went on to explain. “Accessibility and inclusion aren’t a disability issue. They’re everyone’s issue. The task of finding solutions isn’t reserved solely for people with disabilities or politicians or accessibility committees. If we don’t each accept the responsibility for creating accessible and inclusive communities, they will never happen.”
It took a minute for my words to sink in. Then my friends began to brainstorm about the one thing they could do to make a difference. And they did: they got the shopping concourse management to fix the timing on that automatic door.
Every day my adventures teach me valuable lessons. As much as there are frustrating moments, I remain hopeful. If each of us followed up on one issue related to accessibility and inclusion... well, just think of the possibilities.
We’re all on this adventure together.