"Oh, yes, we are fully accessible."
So we arrive at the Skylon Tower in Niagara Falls aiming at spending time in the arcade and then going up for a birthday lunch for both Ruby and Sadie who have September birthdays. I get out of the car and into my chair and roll over to the "ramp." The "ramp" is steep. Really, really, steep. It doesn't even look like it was intended to be a wheelchair ramp. I look at Joe and the girls and say, "We can't get up that."
Joe nods slowly, looking at the ramp. The girls look concerned. They have gotten used to barriers, but they have also gotten used to us figuring a way around most of them. This one, we all know, is a really big barrier. Ruby runs to check to see if there is another, actual, real, ramp. There isn't one. I really don't know what to do.
Then, I notice a fellow in a scooter along with a woman using a cane coming along with their family. There are five of them in total. Along with the two disabled folks there are two teenage boys and one triathlete kind of woman. They stop, look at the ramp, and say, "We'll get you up that ramp." I decline their offer, knowing that it's our only chance of getting up the ramp. But, like many people, refusing needed assistance is hardwired into my DNA.
The fellow in the scooter, a man about my age, says, "We've got young people with us, they can get you up that ramp, no problem." I look at one of the boys who looks horrified at being pulled into this discussion, not because he's a bad kid and not because he's indifferent to the situation but because he's a young teen who doesn't want to be pulled into any situation not exactly of his own choosing, and make a joke about him having to push me up the ramp.
Then I see Ruby and Sadie watching. They are seeing a small community of people, pulled together by circumstance, inaccessibility and disability. They are seeing one man with a disability offering help to another man with a disability. They are seeing that sometimes the solution is the willingness of other people. I accept.
In an instant they are behind me. Joe, the incredibly strong woman and the two teenage boys. I'll add here that I also put my back into it and grabbed my wheels and started pushing. No passive acceptance here. In moments we are up the ramp, we all say goodbye and they are off and we are off.
Later when their mom arrives we tell her the story and I see the girls listening and nodding along to my explanation of how we conquered the ramp that wasn't a ramp and made accessible what wasn't accessible. As I told the story I could still feel the moment, half way up the ramp when everyone was flagging, that I felt the woman put her hand on the back of my wheelchair and PUSH. That was the moment that I knew we'd make it.
Community is community is community.
And sometimes I really love this disability community of mine.