Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Quo Status

Right now I am typing on my laptop, which is resting on my briefcase, which is resting on two large books, which are resting on the bed. The room is small and spartan, clean, daringly white walls. The television sits on the desk such that to use the computer there would make it inaccessible to Joe. He'd have to sit staring at the blazingly white walls. So, here I am with laptop on top of a pile of things. And it works well. I am here typing this blog and Joe is there sitting on a hardback wooden chair watching a documentary on the Second World War.

It didn't take much organizing to do this. What it took was noticing. Noticing that while I typed on the desk in front of the television, Joe was left with little to do but watch me type. Noticing that I was using 'our' space for 'my' space had me noticing the unfairness of that assumption. So, a few minutes later, we are both using the space, both doing what we want, both happy here together.

Yes it took work.

But what it really took was noticing.

I think that's why many of us as people with disabilities sometimes feel 'hurt' rather than 'angry' or 'annoyed' or 'frustrated' at inaccessibility. I mean like didn't anyone NOTICE that this space is utilized by only one group of people, that the others are left to watch but not participate, look in but not come in, understand but not be understood.  It takes NOTICING, noticing privilege and doing something about it. It takes NOTICING that what you expect as a given, isn't given to all. It takes NOTICING that the status quo for many is no status at all.

Some things I've noticed in the past few days:

A wheelchair accessible ATM at the top of a set of stairs.

A restaurant with no accessible entrance with a big accessible washroom.

An agency with a policy on inclusion and a statement about respect having another policy that denies sex education and sexual relationships to the adults in their service.

I guess all social change begins with someone noticing, someone paying attention to that which could be rather than that which simply is. And it's all so easy, really. In our room we just piled thing, upon thing, upon thing. Then, everyone gets something, no one gets nothing. And you know what I noticed. That Joe noticed that I noticed. That it made it clear that though I have fought for access for myself and others with disabilities, I have to remember that my space is shared space too, that 'special needs' doesn't mean 'more important needs' - that we both need things, that we both need to consider each other.

So here I am typing on a stack of stuff. And you know what Joe got out of it?

A reminder that I care about him.

You know what I got out of it?

Well, this blog for one.


Anonymous said...

Once I was at a shopping mall that had an elevator. Good, you say, elevator = access.

Except, no. For some reason, this was a raised elevator, so to get to the elevator in order to use it you had to climb some steps. No ramp to access the elevator.

There is a brand new store not far from where I live. There *is* wheelchair access, if you come in via the right entrance and then use a lift to get to where all the groceries are. Then there's this other entrance/exit from the garage that has an escalator coming up and another escalator going down. The down escalator is unusual, or at least I've never seen anything like it before, in that it is basically a flat, moving ramp downwards. Hurrah! Wheelchair access from the store to the garage! Or at least I think it is access ... I admit I'm not sure how easily a wheelchair user could roll over the surface, or if the slope is the right degree.

But the escalator coming *up* from the garage is the usual escalator with steps. Meaning, NOT accessible. (Well. Actually I've seen wheelchair users, including one friend of mine who does this regularly, get on regular escalators. But it probabaly isn't something that a person could do in a power chair or without a strong sense of daring or a strong enough grip to hold on to the moving railing and the ability to adapt if it turns out the rail doesn't move at quite exactly the same rate as the steps.)

Apparently, when they put in that ramped escalator, they hadn't been thinking of wheelchair users at all. They had only been thinking of walking customers who wanted to take their wheeled grocery cart out to their car. Maybe they think wheelchair riders don't drive? *sigh*

Andrea S.

trainspotter said...

I've seen many wheelchair accessible washrooms without accessible doors on the outside of them! It's like they just slap a sign on the biggest stall and say "Look at that... we're now wheelchair friendly!". I think anyone involved in the process of designing, building, policy making etc. for wheelchair accessibility, should have to spend a semester in a wheelchair as part of their education!

We have similar issues with school bus policies. The school board will offer transportation for special ed. students but won't pay to put an aid on the bus. What happens if a child has a seizure? The bus driver is suppose to be driving, not supporting the students... and besides that, they're not a nurse. What happen if the bus stalls out on some trains tracks? Does the driver single-handedly dump the kids in wheelchairs out the back door, while trying to wrestle a half dozen confused,tantrumming, children out the front door and hope that none of them wander away? Again, someone hasn't bothered to think it through.

Anonymous said...

I often think that simple noticing is perhaps the most important thing we can do in our work, our relationships, our solitude - thank you for pointing this out so beautifully.

Anonymous said...

We have a retail clothing chain that regularly places a manequin in a wheel chair in their store displays.
Great, but their clothing racks are so close together you can't move an infant stroller through it much less and wheelchair or scooter.
Or when the soap dispenser at the wheel chair accessable sink is mounted too high or over the back of the sink.