Last week I was in Cleveland visiting my daughter. We were driving through a cute little neighborhood and my mind was wandering. I was thinking about how I take things for granted like a dishwasher and air-conditioning because my daughter has neither at the moment. All of a sudden, I looked to my right and there was a park and people were walking on this really nice little path around the park. A little lady was tooling by in her electric wheelchair and I thought, “Wow, Cleveland really does ROCK”. The path around their park is accessible for people with disabilities. How many of us can say that? The lady in the wheelchair was able to get out and enjoy the beautiful day without having to have someone go with her and help her roll over cracks in the sidewalk or push her over rocks.
My own neighborhood sidewalk is filled with crevices that would tip over a wheelchair in a heartbeat. Very few of our neighborhood parks are wheelchair accessible. When I taught students who were in wheelchairs, I had to think very hard about what playgrounds I could take them to because getting them somewhere was not easy. Every time I enter a building and encounter steps, I look around and try to figure out how a person in a wheelchair would access the building. If I can’t figure it out, I ask someone. Sometimes, I only get a shrug and an “I don’t know.” That is not an acceptable answer.
I had a friend when I was working on my doctorate at the University of Kansas who was in a wheelchair. She said it took her quite awhile to figure out how to maneuver through KU in her wheelchair. KU is known for it’s hills and steps. It’s quite a complicated system of entering one building and taking an elevator to another floor and going out a door and entering another building and going out another door to eventually getting up to the street level that would be the level you happen to have a class on if you are in a wheelchair. Why doesn’t the university have this already mapped out for people? That would “ROCK”.
I think we all need to start walking or rolling in the footsteps or wheel spokes of others and thinking- what does this look like from their perspective? Our oldest son has Multiple Sclerosis. He is now using a walker and will soon be in a wheelchair full time. We have to plot out where we will take him and how we will take him there because not everywhere we want to go is accessible. He backed out of going to the movies yesterday because he decided it was too much of a hassle. Although, AMC theaters are very disability friendly. They even have an elevator, so he can sit at the back of the theater at the top if he chooses. My hat has always been off to AMC because they show movies specifically geared for children with autism and that is ACES in my book. They also show closed caption for hearing impaired. So AMC theater- you ROCK.
My hat is off to Cleveland. I attended the Cleveland Marathon last weekend because my daughter was running there. They opened the Cleveland Brown’s Stadium so people had a comfortable place to use facilities. Think about it. Someone in a wheelchair could not use a port-a-potty. The city of Cleveland opened the entire stadium and had all the restrooms in full working order so everyone could use the restroom. They let people sit in the stadium. Everyone was friendly. Everything was clean. Cleveland- Drew Carey is right- you do “ROCK”.
Does your city Rock? If it does- then thank them. If it doesn’t start writing and asking “Why not?”