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

 

 

SnowWrong

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

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International Holocaust Remembrance Day: Nazi extermination of the disabled, and the day I met a survivor of Auschwitz

Liberation

 

January 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp Auschwitz. On this day I stop to remember, and ponder, and listen. I reflect upon the atrocities committed by a group of people driven by greed and a lust for power, blinded by prejudice. I pause to hear the voices that cried out, yet were silenced too soon. I will not forget them.

Many do not realize the extensiveness of the list of groups targeted by the Nazis. It included not only Jews, but also “Gypsies, Poles and other Slavs, and people with physical or mental disabilities.” During their quest for racial purity the Nazis strove to eliminate the “unfit” as well as any who would oppose their quest for domination.

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum“The Nazi persecution of persons with disabilities in Germany was one component of radical public health policies aimed at excluding hereditarily “unfit” Germans from the national community. These strategies began with forced sterilization and escalated toward mass murder.”

“On July 14, 1933, the German government instituted the “Law for the Prevention of Progeny with Hereditary Diseases.” This law called for the sterilization of all persons who suffered from diseases considered hereditary, including mental illness, learning disabilities, physical deformity, epilepsy, blindness, deafness, and severe alcoholism. With the law’s passage the Third Reich also stepped up its propaganda against the disabled, regularly labeling them “life unworthy of life” or “useless eaters” and highlighting their burden upon society.”

“Burden upon society.” Lives deemed as less than precious. Of no value. I grieve all the lives lost during the Nazi’s cleansing campaign, but as the mother of a child with special needs this knowledge especially brings me great sorrow. As I gaze into my son’s sweet face I wonder~ would his life had been one that was deemed as dispensable?

Continue reading