April Should be Autism ACTION Month

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April may be “Autism Awareness Month,” but mere awareness is not enough. We need to move beyond awareness to acceptance, and turn acceptance into ACTION.

Why? The world is aware of autism, yet autistic people face microaggressions or even flat-out discrimination every day. Autistic adults are aware that many who claim to speak for the Autism community don’t actually ask Autistic people for their opinion. We are aware that many businesses refuse to give us a chance at meaningful employment. Parents are aware of the lack of sufficient resources to help their children thrive in schools. Children know what it feels like to be bullied and isolated.

It is not enough to be aware one month of the year, and yet sometimes it seems like the only people really paying attention to Autism Awareness Month are people in the community. The rest seem to just want to donate money to an Autism charity to ease their conscience.

Want to REALLY make a difference? ACCEPT. ACCOMMODATE. APPRECIATE. ADVOCATE. Take ACTION. Keep reading for some suggestions of ways that you can help improve the lives of Autistic people. We don’t need your pity, but we would appreciate your support.  Continue reading

Why Accessibility Matters (and why this picture of snow piled in accessible parking spaces makes me so angry)

 

 

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This image of an accessible parking space mostly covered with piles of snow is what greeted me when I recently went shopping with my children. I drove around and discovered that FOUR out of the six accessible spaces along the front of the parking lot were blocked. Winter Storm Jonas had recently finished slamming a large portion of the East Coast with huge amounts of snow. Many of the areas affected were overwhelmed by the cleanup, and had trouble keeping up with the plowing and treating of surfaces. That does not change the fact that a scene like this, especially when it occurs multiple times in the same parking lot, is completely unacceptable. It is also potentially illegal (more on that later). And it made me incredibly angry.

My anger stems from several issues. One: I have seen this happen year after year, although this is the most egregious example I have ever seen. Two: I have experienced firsthand what sort of problems this can cause. I have driven endless circles around a parking lot with a companion in a search for a parking space that would allow them to have space to get their wheelchair out of the car. I have seen the frustration and even pain in their eyes when we have to simply leave. Three: I see far too many instances in life of those with different abilities being marginalized by the general public. They are told time and time again, whether in word or deed, that their needs don’t matter. And this parking lot is currently not meeting the needs of those who have mobility challenges.

Here are pictures from two of the other spaces.

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What if someone couldn’t travel very far? What if a van with a wheelchair lift pulled up? Even if someone parked in the diagonally lined area of the second picture there’s not enough space there to both park the van and deploy the lift. There would hardly be enough space to park and place a wheelchair in between cars.

Now, who is to blame for this? In this case I do not know whether it was the snowplow operator or the property manager who was responsible for the decision to put the snow here. Efforts to contact someone to discuss the problem have failed. The main point is that this should not happen.

I took to Facebook to discuss the problem and hopefully help raise awareness. The fact is, it is a situation that a lot of people don’t think about. People don’t realize all the things that can create accessibility issues. The post and pictures received some interesting and enlightening responses.

Why does something like this happen? Ignorance? Some people may not fully comprehend the problems that a scene like this can cause. They may also be unaware that ADA laws dictate that this NOT happen. Exhaustion? This storm dumped multiple feet of snow on some locations. Snowplow operators worked almost around the clock this weekend and were scrambling to keep up. Or is it money? I have heard from a snowplow operator who says that some property managers struggle with the price of snow removal and that it is more expensive to properly clear the accessible spaces. I have heard from a property manager who said that they have at times been taken advantage of by snowplow operators who pile snow in accessible spaces when they are not supposed to.

Again, in this situation I don’t know who is to blame. Sometimes people make mistakes, or people take shortcuts. But there are also conscientious property managers and snowplow drivers who understand why it is important that this NOT happen.

It would be a shame if someone wasn’t able to enter a store and get what they needed simply because of the lack of accessible parking. No one should be made to feel unaccommodated or unwelcome. Even worse, what if someone was injured because of these unsafe conditions?

And then there is the issue of the law. Continue reading