Archive for the ‘public transportation’ Category
I just started a new job this week. Today was my fifth day of service at the company. Six if you include the interview. Today was the first time there was a single word spoken in reference to my wheelchair. I am greatly enthused by this. The only reason it even came up today was because we went on a little lunch-hour field trip across town and I carpooled with my supervisor. She needed to know how best to disassemble the above-mentioned chair. I don’t remember it even coming up yesterday when she offered to let me ride in her car.
Some of you people may not realize how seriously big this is. To celebrate, before we got in the car to go back to our office, when she made a sarcastic crack about having to fit my wheelchair in her car, I broke the ice open completely and shot back “I can’t help it I’m a cripple!” I don’t know why, but that is my idea of fun.
A new survey reveals that 2/3 of Americans say that “able-bodied” people parking in “Handicapped” parking spaces is amongst their top driving pet peeves. Surely a hefty percentage of that 2/3 are not people who would have needed that parking space. Surely most of them are able-bodied. So this, to me, is a great sign of the expanded consciousness of Americans – a sign that we as a country are looking out for each other. I assume we always have been but when much of the news reveals the selfishness and consumerism of Americans, this is really refreshing to me.
I feel like rolling around town wearing a sweater that says “Texting and Driving Put Me In this Chair” But I won’t. Because I haven’t found a shirt like that yet. Nah, just kidding. The reason is because it is distasteful. And not true. If it were, I’d make a cause out of it. I know a lot of people actually ARE in chairs because of texting and driving. But I don’t know if really outspoken appeals to emotion like that even work. Its kind of like that picture that some of you may have seen floating around the internet of a handicapped parking space with the words “Every 9 minutes Someone Becomes Eligible To Park Here.” Does that work?
An organization in my hometown, called Arc Southeastern Minnesota has recently held it’s first annual Wheelchair Accessibility Awareness event. Basically what they did was they got a large number of people in wheelchairs, and their loved ones, to converge upon the city in groups to test the public establishments for accessibility. While putting them to the test, Arc was also driving home a point by having so many people in wheelchairs dropping by these establishments at one time:
Things MUST change!
The usual list of problems were found: those door-opener buttons taking forever to open in the first place in a lot of places, if they even have them. And have you ever pressed the elevator button, and then when it comes and you try to get in, the door closes on you? Yeah, that was another one of the key findings. Other problems discovered where narrow aisles and doorways, accessibility to restaurants and other every day establishments, and of course wheelchair accessible parking at these establishments.
Now its just a wait to see if their experiment made a difference in how the owners of the places they visited choose to run their businesses.
Do they want our business?
If they do they will make the changes necessary. Unfortunately most business owners will do the bare minimum required of them by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and even then they grumble about the cost. Maybe there needs to be a government subsidy for these businesses to make these changes, but I guarantee you the dollars spent by business owners to make the changes will be paid back in full by our dollars spent as their customers. There are more of us than they may imagine. They just don’t see us around much because getting into their buildings may be more trouble than it’s worth.
If you live in a town that you feel needs a little upgrade in accessibility in general, and you have a local disabled advocacy organization, please suggest conducting a similar experiment.
I recently wrote a posting imploring disabled people in Canada to let me know they were there and that they were reading “Treadmarkz”. This led me to look at the rest of the map and realize that my readership in Russia is almost zippo. I was doing some research to see what topics I could tackle to try to reach out to my Russian disabled friends. That led me to a great blog that really sums up everything that I’d been attempting to do with the Canada posting and the planned Russia posting. It is all about what its like to be disabled…outside of America.
I added it to my blog roll and I’d like to direct your attention to it. It is called “Outside America.” Give it a look. For those of you who are in the States, it will be eye-opening I am sure. And I guess for anyone on the planet it may be eye-opening to see how the disabled live in any other country which “Outside America” covers. And it covers a lot of ground, I can see. Check it out, in my blogroll on the right.
The ADA is a complex piece of legislation. I will not try to comment on or cover everything that is in it. But in this episode of “A Time Machine with Hand Controls, you will see the steps that were taken over a period of 25 years which led to the signing of the ADA in 1990.
Because the ADA was just an extension of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which did not cover discrimination based on disability. So really what this means is that from 1964 to 1990, it was illegal to discriminate based on color gender, age, etc, but if you were in a wheelchair or were blind, or an amputee, or had any of a wide range of mental disabilities, you were not covered, you were not protected by the U.S. Government. That is part of why the only disabled people you saw out in public were the homeless Vietnam War veterans in wheelchairs out on the street begging for money. The opportunity to be a full, thriving successful member of society was extremely limited.
In 1973 things got better with the Rehabilitation Act, but even this only pertained to programs conducted by Federal agencies. It did not protect anyone from discrimination in every day life. Jobs, accessibility to buildings where one may conduct every day business, take part in social activities, entertainment, etc. After the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, the disabled could now get government jobs and receive benefits of government programs, but those programs were limited at the time. Accessibility to public buildings, public transportation, and employment in the public sector was not open to folks with disabilities until 1990.
In 1986, the National Council on Disability demanded that one law be passed protecting the rights of all people with disabilities. But we all know how slow federal government works on these kinds of things. It still took a couple of years. In fact the first draft of the ADA was written in 1988, two years before it passed.
Around this same time, the Civil Rights Act was rewritten to include people living on Federal Funds, i.e., people on Social Security, which did in fact cover a lot of people with disabilities. But not all of them.
The Fair Housing Act also came in 1988, and made discrimination against the disabled in public housing illegal, which in itself led to more accessible apartment buildings. But really it just said that land lords could not decline someone rental based on their disability.
So as you can see, the ADA really came together in a slow, choppy process, in pieces, over time, culminating in 1988 when many things were happening for the disabled at one time and somebody noticed it and said “Hey, why don’t we give these people some Civil Rights” while we are at it?”
It strikes me as really dumb that it is illegal for people on bicycles to ride on the sidewalk. They are required to ride down on the street in the “bike lane”. Right next to where the traffic is zooming by! Two-ton chunks of metal are hurtling by at 40-60 miles per hour and these people on bikes can’t go on the sidewalk, because why? Because pedestrians might get hurt if they are hit by a bicycle? I think this is the idea behind the law. But hey, I am in a wheelchair and I can speed down the sidewalk pretty darn fast if I choose to. I don’t choose to, being a civilized man. And I think that, like me, a person on a bicycle can probably manage to control his/her speed if he/she sees pedestrians approaching on the sidewalk.
Should I take my wheelchair in the bike lane? Is it technically legal for me to take the sidewalk in my wheelchair? If it is okay, is it only because the wheelchair is my primary means of getting around, and a bicycle is a recreational vehicle? If so, then what if I took one of those hand-cycles out on the sidewalk? It’s a recreational vehicle. But yet, as a disabled person, it would still be my only means of getting around at the time, so they’d have to let me go on the sidewalk right?
Doesn’t make any sense. Are we willing to put some people more at risk than others of being hit by a car? Is this discrimination based on the person’s level of ability? I mean hey, I’m the one in the wheelchair here, I am the one getting special treatment, whose life is not being endangered, so far be it from me to complain, but I am looking out for everyone here.