Friday, April 18, 2008

Access=ability

This Kindle will work! It's half the weight of any book. I might make a cloth cover for it since the book-y cover makes it a little more cumbersome--it's meant to protect the screen. No more gigantic 500 to 1000-page hardbound heavy references and books I've been needing, at least when I can get them through Amazon. Those books hurt me! Not just carrying them, but attempting to read them, hold them, turn pages. Although I have mixed feelings about Amazon since I would like more independent bookstores, I definitely appreciate this technology.

You know, there are people in the world who completely "get it." There are too few of them, but I am grateful for each of them. Today I had a chance to talk to someone who works in a disability field, and at every moment he was aware--and this awareness seemed to come automatically, without consciousness of it. When he mentioned summer events in which I might be interested, he immediately worried the timing (evenings) might create transportation issues. For those taking public transport it would indeed do so. Later, I saw him ready to push the elevator button if I needed him to, which is very helpful, because sometimes I do. And no weird dance getting off the elevator--he was aware of how I had to back up and turn to get off, which most people have difficulty with, blocking me. These are minor issues, but it's nice to have someone who isn't using a mobility device himself or herself completely get it. I don't expect perfection from people--I fumble around, trip, step in people's paths accidentally when I am walking. Being around people like this (those who get it, not those who blunder along like me) is lovely. I can almost forget my disability because barriers are removed and people are being thoughtful as people should be to one another. The biggest barriers are social--people's attitudes. When someone's already so conscious, it makes that time joyful rather than draining.

I am also very appreciative of the people who are helping with substantially needed and substantial changes at work, which will help quite a number of people. Whether or not they succeed, they are still making a difference through their show of support, demonstrating that people with disabilities have allies and that others will stand up to lack of accessiblity, continued discrimination, and policies with an inequitable impact. They are in some ways even more enthusiastic/driven than I. I'm worn down! A couple of people in particular have handled everything by phone and email, taking on more work themselves in order to help. Recognizing my current physical limitations, they've moved forward when I could not, when I would not have been able to. Their efforts are similar to what I've told my kids to do when a fellow student is mocked or made fun of--someone else needs to tell the bullies that they're wrong. And some of the responses I had received were very close to bullying, excessively harsh in tone; I have no doubt they wouldn't want their responses to be made public or even known to their supervisors. A direct, short, and objective request for cost free accommodation is not an invitation for meanness. Abusing one's presumed power is not okay. As the disability field person says, people will sometimes control themselves when they're being watched; many of the people who are very sensitive/aware about race and gender issues are in a fog when it comes to disability.

These things can be learned, people! The reasonable accommodation model is not that tricky, and treating people with disabilities with genuine respect is not much more difficult than treating any other group with respect. I don't have a lot of patience for those who dismiss etiquette or the law as difficult, because they're both fairly simple. Real awareness takes more than that, though, a recognition of the numerous daily challenges, again, many of which are social or societally imposed.

2 comments:

Wheelchair Dancer said...

ooo. glad to hear about Kindle. I've been thinking about getting one, but I wasn't sure about whether it might actually help or not. They're pretty expensive, but what works works, you know?

Some people really rock.

WCD

FridaWrites said...

Of course you rock, WCD. :)

You can get books you have already purchased through Amazon at a substantial discount (if they're available--more should be over time). I was able to find a few books I needed for 99 cents, to my surprise! Much cheaper than $12 each. My husband had been madly ebaying pre-purchase, and I think that helped a lot. In the long term it *may* save money--so long as I'm not purchasing more books proportionately.

You can annotate books too.