Thursday, August 15, 2013

Universal Access, Singular Disapproval

I've always believed that after access to education and employment the most important step to integrate people with mobility disabilities into society would be zoning laws requiring new construction to have one accessible entrance (among other accessible features).

There's a case in Colorado where a house in a new development was built with a ramp, at which point a neighbor objected. The homeowner says the "neighbors are threatening legal action if they don't remove the ramp. They say the next door couple is worried that the ramp will hurt the value of their home."

I've had similar experiences, although not exactly of that sort but near enough to understand some people believe people with disabilities are pollution. When we purchased a unit in a condominium development, we had to get permission from the association to change the steps into a ramp. There was no problem, but of course, I think a legal association governing a group of housing units would be forced to comply with the ADA. I didn't expect problems, and I wanted to build the ramp so that it wouldn't be an eye sore.

As presented in the picture accompanying the article, there's nothing unattractive about the ramp in Colorado, especially considering it is new construction with immature landscape. Were it me, I might use the same stone or brick used in trimming the house to cover the visible sides of the ramp, but it appears as if there is a plant bed in front of one element of the ramp that will eventually decorate that side.

All that aside: Why is a ramp any uglier than a set of stairs?

People with mobility disabilities, and other sorts of disabilities as well, face similar situations every day. However, as I grow older, I simply think this sort of disability prejudice is simply a microcosm, a facet, of the human inability to accept or tolerate anything different, out of the norm, unexpected in their environment. 

Or, to put it another way—I think the ramp-hating neighbor's reaction would have been similar, for example, if a <fill in the blank> family had moved in the house, ramp or no ramp. And you can use your own prejudice to fill in that blank. African-American? Hispanic? Muslim? White-trash hillbilly with a car on cinder-blocks? 

Human beings have a prejudice gene, perhaps something inscribed in our DNA that manifests itself in tribalism or nationalism in more benign and more lethal ways under other circumstances.

In that sense, confronting this sort of reaction is simply another thing a person with a disability must understand comes from living in Cripville, but if you have a somewhat jaundiced eye about human nature, it's nothing unusual. 

And so it goes.

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