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When you’re disabled, you think about inaccessibility. A lot. If your disability requires a mobility aid (like mine does – for example), your life is dependent on accessibility to live. Disabled people are continually reminded that this world was not designed for their needs.
If you want a reminder that it was not designed for us, take a look around at in your current city’s ramps and critically look at their designs. Majority of them are not accessible for most wheelchair users. Or walk around and see how many buildings actually have ramps or disabled access. You’d be surprised how many times that a building doesn’t need to have a ramp.
Except ramps are just what most people equate to accessibility. Not all disabilities require ramps. Not all disabilities require mobility aids either.
Day to-day, I live with reminders that this world is lacking basic access for disabled people to live their lives. Some days, I get angry because it’s not just affecting me. It’s having an effect on all disabled people. Occasionally, I get sad, too, even if I don’t like acknowledging that. It’s a mixture of so many emotions. Truthfully, I try to separate myself from the flux of emotional stressors. Except in all honesty, I can’t separate myself on how inaccessibility affects my emotional and physical life.
We don’t talk enough about inaccessibility. We don’t talk about the serious impacts and effects that inaccessibility has on us.
I’m not talking about the kind of inaccessibility that the able-bodied community may imagine such as needing more handicapped parking or lack of ramps. While those issues do matter (and should matter): these are just basic facets of our existence. I’m talking about the fact that ramps are usually too high to push up, wheelchair vans cost too much, and PCA (personal care assistant) services are often cut or not covered by insurance.
I have missed major moments of the lives of people who I love because I haven’t been able to get into the venue. It means that I have to tell friends that I can’t go to that fun place with them. That place (which does seem cool) is not accessible. I can tell you, however, that it does not feel very cool to say that or miss out on the event. This is what I what I think of when I think of inaccessibility.
Inaccessibility is not just physical barriers. It’s emotional barriers too of living your life as a person with a disability.
It’s hoping that you don’t pee yourself because the restaurant’s handicapped stall is not functioning, so you start counting. It’s crying because you missed another family event. It’s emotionally draining. It’s battling humiliation or rage. It even means that someone has even told me outright, “I think you are, like, really nice, but I don’t think that we should hangout since you use a chair. I don’t know how to handle all of it, you know?” – directly quoting my journal entry
The positive was that this person immediately let me know that she was less than stellar. I was hurt because she found the idea of cancelling plans to be easier than working out plans that were accessible. The idea of staying away from a disabled person was easier than finding ways to make my life as a disabled person easier.
Able-bodied people have no idea what disabled people go through to live their lives in a functional way. Disabled people have so much responsibility on their weary shoulders. Imagine if able-bodied people had to work out everything including bathroom trips — even for a day? This is the life of a person with a disability. We have no choice, but to make sure our lives are accessible. Everything is always planned out. I don’t go to a doctor’s office without calling to ask if they’re wheelchair accessible.
I plan everything out. I don’t have a choice.
There is a running joke about disabled people’s bathroom breaks too. We’re calculated people. In a world like this, we have to find a way to make it accessible to us because the world won’t. We make access where this isn’t any— and that’s really not okay.
I do not have the choice of cancelling on my disability — like that girl did to our hangout plans last-minute — even if it would be nice on the days where it rains. I can’t cancel on it when I’m unsure if I can handle another medical procedure. I cannot take a break from my illness, my wheelchair or any of the things about being disabled that are not fun. I can’t take a break, even when I’m tired. And really tired of the fear of COVID-19. I can’t take a break because this is my life.
I sometimes wonder what it would feel to wake up, get dressed, and not plan out my day with precision. Wouldn’t it be lovely to go somewhere without messaging or calling the venue first to see if they’re wheelchair accessible? Or to not be nervous that the person didn’t relay poor information? That has happened more than once. I know that it will happen again.
This world, as I said, is always thinking with able-bodied people in mind. The homes, store-fronts, and even public buildings serve us forget that disabled people have lives too. We want to live freely too.
When you live in a world that is not accessible to you: it becomes normals in aspects to experience exclusion. To me, that’s what inaccessibility feels like. It’s being excluded and continually reminders that this world is excluding you from experiencing it.
That is the life of inaccessibility.