Saturday, September 15, 2007

Will You Have Fries With That Ramp?

There was an interesting article in the New York Times last week, one in which a writer for the Times noted the oddity that many of the better restaurants in the Big Apple offer limited access for people with mobility issues. One comment struck home, as I've followed the same pattern myself over the years.
"I dehydrate before I go out to dinner," she said. "I don't drink anything for an hour and a half." She also carries around a 12-pound fiberglass ramp that she uses if a restaurant has a step or two up to its entrance, as many do. If a restaurant has a whole flight of stairs, she's out of luck.

I posted the link -- and the comment, including the idea that I understood the value of the woman's approach to real life situations -- to a discussion list monitored by people with disabilities who have influence in the media. Only one person replied, and it was a challenge.
  • Must we carry portable ramps to cover one or two steps, or enter a building through a service entrance?

  • Why would anyone want to spend money in a place that does not make their restaurant accessible?

  • Am I missing something?

In an absolute sense, I would not spend money in places where there is no access. But there's this: "sometimes to get along, you gotta go along," which means I don't demand my extended family accommodate my every wish. When the family chooses to celebrate a birthday in an old building remodeled into a trendy deli and the only entrance is through the kitchen, I "go along."

I never want my mobility issues to be the central focus of the event. My disability is my problem.

Additionally, I have used a wheelchair since 1960. For most of those years, I could only move about in society by tolerating poor access.

I rejoice over the changes brought by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and celebrate every time I find a ramp or an automatic door, but I have grown to believe that the next major change (evolution rather than revolution) will come through a changing perception of people with disabilities.

The ADA isn't perfectly applied, obviously, but, if I were king, I would mandate a change in the construction of all new personal residences to assure accessibility.

The thing that I missed most, the thing that changed my life most, was my inability to socialize, to visit a friend's home, to drop in on an acquaintance.

That, and being rich enough to afford a major disability.

"Some people confuse acceptance with apathy, but there's all the difference in the world. Apathy fails to distinguish between what can and what cannot be helped; acceptance makes that distinction. Apathy paralyzes the will-to-action; acceptance frees it by relieving it of impossible burdens.”
- Arthur Gordon

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