Sunday, 3 March 2013

"I Don't Care About You": Thoughts on Accessibility and Disability Sensitivity

When I see buildings with a low degree of accessibility...outdoor wheelchair ramps covered with accumulated ice and snow...buildings with power doors or elevators that aren't functioning...stores that use aisles as display space for merchandise, making the store difficult to navigate...I wonder if the people in charge of the building really realize what kind of message I, as a disabled person, come away with.

Accessibility...I Wonder...

I wonder the people in charge of these buildings with low degrees of accessibility realize that they might as well put up a sign that says (even if they don't really believe it), "Disabled people, we don't care enough about you as a potential customer/employee/volunteer to ensure that you can get into our building/get around it easily. Please take your money/abilities and expertise/time and community spirit elsewhere."

I wonder if they realize how frustrating and depressing this gets after a while, especially after saying to a store or organization several times, "You know, if you can't keep ice off of your ramp, you might as well rope it off, because it's useless to people in wheelchairs and it's just encouraging other physically disabled people to use it when it's not safe."

I wonder if they realize that inaccessibility sometimes makes me feel invisible in my own town, like people would just rather that I stayed at home and not bothered anyone with my needs. And I can handle low accessibility pretty well now. Plenty of people have much more trouble getting around than I do.

Accessibility is Good for Everyone

I wish that people would realize that universal design, accessibility and good disability sensitivity practices in businesses and organizations benefits everybody. If somebody in a wheelchair can get into a store and easily get around, so can a parent whose child is in a stroller, or a customer who has broken a leg and is using crutches. If the cashier asks at the cash register, "Did you find everything that you were looking for today?", a customer with visual disabilities who has trouble reading signs can ask where a product is, or a customer in a wheelchair can ask for assistance getting a product down from a high shelf. Or someone with no disabilities at all who just can't find what they're looking for can also get the help that they need. Everybody wins.

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