Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Trip: The Next Morning

Joe and I were up early and were chatting with the porter about using the "L" to get downtown to the parade. I had been told by one of the organizer's, in an email, that the system was fairly accessible and we were thinking of riding down with everyone else rather than taking the van. The porter pointed to a huge bridge over the freeway that connected to the rapid transit system. It looked old and my heart sank. As the age of a structure increases the likelihood of accessibility decreases - at least in my experience. The porter, correctly reading my face said, "Oh, no, don't worry, it's accessible."

We were then told that to get day passes we needed to cross over the freeway and go to a grocery store called Domenicks where they sold them at the customer service desk. Again we were reassured that the whole thing was accessible. So, checking the time and realizing we could get there and back before it was time to meet everyone, we headed out. To get to the elevator we had to go along a very narrow bit of sidewalk that was cheek by jowl with the freeway. I drove very carefully, my chair just fitting on the concrete. We rode up in an elevator, rolled across the bridge looking down and lane after lane of highway. Then we were down the other elevator and over to the store and seconds later found ourselves on our way back to the hotel.

Everyone was gathered getting breakfast stuff at the coffee stand and I was able to hand out the day passes and instruct everyone on how to get to the 'blue line' in order to make it downtown. The excitement was gathering as we all made sure we had what we needed, the banner, the cards to hand out were in one bag and our enthusiasm in the other, so we were good to go.

This seems like such a small thing.

But it wasn't.

Finding accessibility, where it wasn't expected, made such a difference to me and to my day. I am growing used to, with much protest, at having things done for me rather than doing things for others. So often there is some barrier to my full participation, to my making a full contribution. A barrier outside of me and outside of my control. To have the desire to do something and to be able to do it - shouldn't be remarkable, but it was.

The first of two pride parades consisted just of two people, Joe and I, on a bridge over I90, near O'Hare. I wonder if anyone noticed.


CL said...

I had been wondering what you would think of the public transit and other transportation / accessibility issues here in Chicago. The CTA is actually pretty good overall. My main complaint is that some train stations don't have elevators. But every bus is accessible, and the drivers are generally nice about lowering the step or using the ramp.

I hope that Chicago treated you well for the rest of your visit.

Anonymous said...

I kinda got choked up at your "first of two pride parades" line - as the "desire to do something and to be able to do it" is something I have lost. It is so hard on your heart - the spirit being willing but the flesh being weak. I am so glad it ended up being a positive experience for you and Joe!! I certainly sit up and notice your first pride parade - good on ya!

Anonymous said...

So glad to here this. I lived in Chicago for most of the 90s, and most public transit wasn't accessible then. I'm glad (and proud) that it's getting better.

Anonymous said...

In the US, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires public transportation to be accessible. There has been a long transitional period to implementing this because it only applies to new infrastructure (eg, if your city were to add a few brand new train stations to an old train line, then the new stations would be required to comply with the ADA, but the old stations would only need to be made accessible the next time the city makes some massive renovations to them). Same for buses--cities were not required to immediately rid themselves of old, inaccessible buses, so it makes sense that Chicago buses continued to be inaccessible for most of the 90s. It was similar in the city where I am as well (albeit a different US city).

I don't know much about buses so I don't know if there are any cities left using public buses that were manufactured or purchased in pre-ADA days (ie before July 26, 1990--yes, the 22nd anniversary is tomorrow). But any buses post ADA now need to be accessible and after 22 years I would hope most if not all public buses would be compliant.

Old train stations and old bridges are more of a challenge (legal wise, I mean), so it's more impressive to see these, too, becoming accessible.

Lori said...

To celebrate the anniversary of ADA, I recommend watching the movie "Music Within". Thank you Anonymous for the reminder.