When I ride to work, using WheelTrans, I never know what route I'm going to take or who I'm going to meet. I like this as a way to begin my day. It shakes the brain up a bit and makes each turn a bit of a mystery. Over the many years of using the service, I've come to ride on many streets and take many routes. Some of them I recognize from various landmarks.
As a disabled person, some of those landmarks are distinctly disability related. Houses with cool ramps, porches with elevators attached, garages full of scooters. One of those landmarks is a house in an older part of town and I noticed it, at first, years ago, because a brand new elevator had been installed and the determinedly and somewhat shiny beige of the elevator clashed against the old world charm of the porch and the landscaping. I could see that paving stones had been placed to make a pathway from the elevator to the driveway. Without knowing any of the story, it was clear that there was someone in the house who now needed a way to deal with getting from the ground to the porch without traversing a steep and curved stairway.
Over the years the elevator has become less shiny and began to blend into the the environment, simply becoming part of the house, part of the neighbourhood. I've never seen the person who rode the elevator. Never stopped to pick someone up at that address. But what I did see is that the elevator was down as often as it was up. Whoever used it, used it a lot. Whoever used it was still quite active and still engaged in life.
Today was different.
We drove by the house and I glanced to see if the elevator was up, or down. It was up. Below the elevator, right underneath, was a large floral display, the type you see at funerals. It was a large heart, white flowers edged by red flowers. Beside them stood a young woman, perhaps in her twenties. She was looking at the flowers, her shoulders slumped, and tears ran down her face. She was grieving. Grieving openly and without reservation.
Even though I don't know the story. I don't need to. My heart reached out to her, from behind my bus window, and wanted desperately to offer her solace. She leaned forward, placing her hand on the elevator for support, and now began to sob.
As we drove by, it struck me that all those who think that disabled lives aren't worth living and that disabled lives when lost aren't worth morning - that all those who think that disabled lives aren't worth the money to make homes accessible and community possible - that all those who operate on prejudice and bias regarding disability - need to see something simple.
And an elevator that made it all possible.