Friday, October 23, 2009

Accessibility the Soundtrack of My Life

image The difference between whether or not a venue is accessible, will impact my ability to participate.  I have the ability to push my own boundaries at great personal cost.  This enables the “super crip” mythology, wherein it is suggested that if we try harder, we would be able to participate in the same way that an able bodied person can.  The cost is the part that is never factored into this suggestion.

When I attend Destructions hockey games, it means at a very minimum hours of pain.   The pro shop has a ramp so that I may enter with my scooter but to actually watch the game I have to sit in the stands.  If I were not able to get out of my scooter and climb stairs, I would be unable to get into the stands.  If I decide to sit in the scooter, I am unable to see the games and there is no play by play, so I cannot even hear how the game is going.  This is considered accessible because the pro shop has a ramp.

Often businesses, or public venues, will do the bare minimum required by law and this minimum in many cases does not make a place truly accessible.   Often we hear about the extra cost involved to ensure that all can participate, thus putting money ahead of people.  Being active or interacting with others is essential to good health and yet we are more than willing to exclude others.  Imagine standing outside of a locked door and knocking loudly, only to have no one ever answer your call.

We would never expect the average able bodied person to push themselves to the point of pain to participate in a public event.  Whether I am watching my son play hockey or considering taking my boys to the Santa Claus parade, I must consider how much pain I am able to live with to participate.  Differently abled parents are no different than able bodied parents.  We want to be a part of our children’s lives and yet the barriers that exist often make this impossible. 

Those that parent with a disability also bear the social stigma of being unfit. Social services has intervened on many occasions because of questions about our ability to parent.  Disablism in this case is supported by concern for the children.  It never occurs to many, that if the world were more accessible, that there would be no reason for concern.  The fault is not with the body in question but with the makeup of the world.

My shifting appearance i.e cane to scooter, does not mean that I am able to tolerate more on one day than another; it is a reflection of the fact that though the scooter is best for me, the world has made it decidedly difficult to use it in all situations.  Even having the ability to use a cane versus a scooter, at all times is a privilege  because it means I can choose to enable the super crip script at great personal cost. 

I literally stood with tears in my eyes for an hour to watch my boy play, even as the unhusband furtively whispered please just go home Renee. The thought of not cheering for my son when all of the other children had their mothers cheering for them was too much for me.  I knew that it would mean a day on the couch, with my body racked in pain but my boy means that much to me.  This is the position that the differently abled are placed into everyday.  This is what the super crip myth leads to. 

Rise above means pain and suffering.  Rise above means that accessibility is not a concern.  Rise above means money above human pain and suffering.  Rise above is what we are told every single day and no one outside of another differently abled person can understand the cost of this very damaging social myth.  The demand that we be super human, in the face of everyday exclusion leads to pain.  I cannot be more direct than that.  Pain. Whether it is emotional or physical pain, to demand that someone live with that on a daily basis is to show a true contempt for humanity.