Thursday, May 10, 2007

My achey breaky advocate's heart

Ask me why, in a system that does not require notice, those who are in violation of the ADA react with hostility to attempts to remedy the problems but then claim they are the "victims" and insist that they need a 90 day notice provision for the ADA?

I've never seen such a ridiculous idea in my life. Any notice that I've tried to give under the present act usually results in a temper tantrum, hilarious laughter, or - the most common reaction - it's ignored.

This would all break my heart except that I am an advocate. I've been one for over 20 years. I'm not swayed by tears, insults, fists in the air, banging on furniture, slamming down phones in my ear, nasty letters or potty words. Words and phrases like "entitlement", "aren't other restaurants accessible? go there instead!", "I don't see why your client can't use the toilet down the block", and (my personal fave) "I'm grandfathered into the ADA!" no longer make me even blink an eye.

I could write a country song about how I find all of this unmoving. Like a woman wronged and left with five kids and no child support, I stand (or sit) alone in the face of accusations that I should not speak up about lack of access or accommodations for people with disabilities who want to work, go out in society and lead full and productive lives. The response is: "Sure, but go down the block to do it - go somewhere else."

Years ago I wanted to be a songwriter. I could be cute right now and come up with some country lyrics to illustrate what I mean. But I'm too tired from advocating and I suspect we're all better off if I just leave it up to your imagination what I might write.

Because my achey breaky advocate's heart is not unique. It's shared by all of us who push for the changes we need to achieve inclusion.


Anonymous said...

I admire your work, because it's uphill all the way. I've never quite figured out how someone can have the fortitude to do advocacy as a job: no one comes for help until they've already tried anything they know to do.

The part of teaching that I dread is grading - where I have to mark down where a person was off. But at least some of them recognize that I'm helping them become what they want to be, and accept the correction with good grace. Even, once in a blue moon, someone says "thank you." (But yes, there are slammed doors and potty words too.)

If that was all I faced in teaching, I'm not sure I could get up in the morning to do it. So HATS OFF!! I'm grateful that you do that work. I wish the folks you have to contact would learn to say "Thank you for helping me become the kind of business/housing/whatever that I want" - but that's probably a matter for prayer.

Ruth said...

Thanks for your support and encouragement. It is a matter of prayer, I think, for hearts and minds to change. Change is hard for everyone .

It is good to hear that some students 'get' that constructive feedback/grading is useful - I suspect that they are the ones who are apt to be most successful when they finish their academic lives as well. I still recall some of the things my academic advisors in college and post grad told me/taught me - about life and myself. Teaching is such an art!

The Fox said...

It wasn't until my mother required the use of a power scooter due to a back problem that I fully undestood this issue of accessibility. Supporting an issue in principle (even when I was studying law and political science) is significantly different from being the one to head into the restaurant or shop to make sure my mother could make her way in and through the space.

On the flip side, when my brother was seriously injured and in a near body cast, my mom called his favorite store (a local used book shop - we're all bibliophiles). The store completely re-arranged their aisles to allow his extra-wide wheelchair access and made sure the sections that had books of particular interest to him were completely free of any impediments.

There is hope. It takes not only the voice of people like you who dedicate your life to it, but also to those who see the problems. We are all responsible for the world in which we live.

People in political science and electoral politics say, "Decisions are made by those who show up." But change only occurs when people speak up.

Ruth said...

Thanks for your comment. I've seen so many acts of generosity over the years myself where people have extended themselves to help out folks with disabilities - in ways that are remarkable. There is a theme of being responsible for the world we live in that could really benefit all of us in terms of being better citizens - in America and in the world.