Water fountain in a Southern town in the 1950’s
Wheelchair Chronicles #21
Story #1. A Hispanic woman walked up to the doors of a department store one morning. She reached for the door handle but realized that the door was locked. She looked on the inside, figuring that the store was closed but it wasn’t. There were people walking around, shopping freely.
She noticed a letter on the door….
“Hispanic Women Entrance Over There”. Her puzzled look turned angry. She had to walk almost one city block to get to a door that she could enter.
“Hispanic Women Entrance Right Here” she read on the door. She was tired, confused and very angry that she had to walk so far to get inside.
Story #2. After a long day of play, a very thirsty child had finally found a water fountain. She made her way over to it but soon realized that the water fountain was much too tall for her to reach. She looked around for another lower water fountain and spotted one in the corner. When she got over to it she realized that there was a “OUT OF ORDER” sign on it.
She saw a guard standing over to the side and decided to talk to him.
“I can’t reach the water fountain and the one I can reach doesn’t work.” she said.
“Well I can’t help it that you’re too short to reach it. I mean we made that one over there lower so that YOU people can access it.”
“But it’s not working.” She pleaded.
“Well it will be fixed next month. You don’t see anyone else complaining? Why do you feel like you need special rights? I think people like you should learn to bring your own water from home anyway.”
The guard walked away.
Depending on your location in the world, this scenario would probably never happen. If it did, you can bet that it would soon be national news. Hispanic people and parents would be outraged.
But what if people who weren’t parents or Hispanic failed to see the outrage? People of other ethnicities walked through the door of the department just fine. It wasn’t like someone said Hispanic women couldn’t shop there, they were just given an inconvenient door to enter.
Had she parked in the right place the first time, she wouldn’t have had to walk a long distance to get through the door. Some may even feel that since she is Hispanic, she should know that she is going to face some difficulty shopping in stores and that she should just accept it as a part of being Hispanic.
Tall people who reached the water fountain had no complaints either. At least the other water fountain was THERE. It means that someone thought of short people and children. It didn’t matter that the fountain didn’t work as long as it was accessible. Think of all the money the park had to spend for TWO water fountains when one was sufficient. That park had to go out of their way just so that children could drink when thirsty. Where is the fairness?
Replace “Hispanic woman” and “child” with disabled person and you will get the gist of this post.
Far too many people feel that if an attempt to make an area accessible was made, albeit a clumsy one, then no one should have a reason to complain.
Think I’m making it up?
Watch an able bodied person park in a handicapped spot, feeling that they have the right to park there because they are only going to be in the bank for fifteen minutes tops. Or a person blocking a curb cut with their car because…well there just wasn’t anywhere else to park. This forces a person using a walker or wheelchair into the street to hopefully get back to the sidewalk without putting themselves in danger.
Personally, I don’t mind having to use a different door when I go out. I don’t expect every door to be accessible either, although it would be nice. But its not too much to ask that the accessible equipment actually works or that when a space is being designed for public use, it encompasses universal design so that people with all sorts of different situations can have access.
Let’s be fair. Most able bodied people haven’t a clue what disabled people go through on a daily basis. Unless you have or live with someone with a disability, only then you would have that access.
I was the same way. Those handicapped signs are every where and I was at ease with myself knowing that as long as they had that “sign” business going on that they were fine. I might have even been envious a few times after navigating through a huge parking lot looking for a space when all of those wonderful and close handicapped spots were available.
I even made a comment once stating, “Why are there so many handicapped places? Hell if I were handicapped, I wouldn’t even leave my house!” Ugh…cringeworthy I know. I never in a million years thought I would find myself in the same situation. I guess when you know better you do better right?
But even that is insufficient. It didn’t take a bunch of white people to turn black to realize that slavery and Jim Crow was horrible. It shouldn’t take you to be wheelchair bound tomorrow to realize how difficult it is living in a world that wasn’t designed for you in mind.
That blue handicapped sign leaves a lot of able bodied people with a false sense of security. They figure that the issue is taken care of and that nothing more needs to be done. Some feel that any “extra” accommodations given to people with disabilities are unfair and wrong.
This post is a wake up call to the able bodied but don’t act because this could be you or your child tomorrow. I sadly didn’t take the time out to give a damn about people with disabilities and what they went through on a daily basis until it happened to me.
Act because its the right thing to do.
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