"What world do we live in?"
Ruby's question, that came with no obvious prompt, led me to a long explanation. I explained to her that there was only one world. That that world was broken down into countries, and provinces and cities. I took a map, when I get going, I get going, and showed her where she lived and where we lived. I then showed her the 'revolver map' on my blog so she could see the world spinning in space. She listened carefully to my explanation and when I was done, she furrowed her brow and then asked again, "Yeah, but what world do we live in?"
Could it be that from the vantage point of childhood that she understands a profound truth? That there is, indeed, only one planet - but that the people who live on that planet live in vastly different worlds. I understood this, briefly and very deeply, when I left the world of the walking and entered the world of the rolling. My world changed, socially, politically, professionally and personally. My existence became defined by where I could go and where I couldn't go. I found barriers of concrete and barriers of attitude. My options narrowed while at the same time my vista's broadened. I saw things I never saw before. I lost and I gained, probably in equal measure, but, for certain, I took up citizenship in a vastly different world than the one I had lived in.
Being ripped out of the social fabric is a startling experience. It caused me to see the blissful privilege with which many live, and which few question. Things I never noticed, things which granted my access while denying it to others became glaringly obvious. How could I have not noticed the absence in so much of the world in which I had moments before walked, of so fellow citizens who moved differently? How could I have not noticed the existence of exclusionary practices and physical barriers? How could something that was obvious fifteen seconds after sitting in a wheelchair be something to which I was so oblivious?
I complained about lack of access to a store owner who said, in all seriousness, "we don't get disabled shoppers here".
And yet the existence on one planet of different worlds could be written about by any one with any difference. Exclusionary practice isn't limited to those with disabilities. Access is a concept that is understood, though defined differently, by others who find barriers because of faith, of gender, of sexuality, of race, of height, of weight, of wealth, of education, of age, of wellness, of attractiveness. Of ... everything. To a certain degree, those of us with dsabilities who have claimed the word 'access' and 'accessibility' need to give it back. Perhaps if there was universal access then there'd be simply one world. Perhaps if we we understood equity as access then s barrier-free world would also be a fully inclusive one.
Privilege and power and opportunity are the things which draw borders around our existence. They are the 'holy trinity' of prejudice. They are the sharp blades used to slice one planet into many worlds. Maybe that's what I need to be thinking about this year. Maybe I need to be as dedicated to the idea of 'one planet, one people, one world' as I am to the struggle for inclusion 'for me' and 'for those like me'. Maybe all of us need to use the word 'diversity' to mean 'diversity' rather than how it's typically used - to mean more than simply 'me too'.
I still remember Ruby's little brow furrowing as she asked a second time, 'Yeah, but what world do we live in?" She must have been confused at my answering by pointing to lines on a map rather than to the true borders which separate us all. One planet, one world - that's what children want.
And that, is what I want, and what I wish for.
It won't come in 2012.
But maybe if we try, it can come closer.