Monday, January 12, 2009

Why has Yes We Can become No We Can't for people with disabilities?

.....about excluding people with disabilities at the inauguration. Here's what's out there and if you write about it, please leave me a link in the comments - or if you want to do a roundup, please feel free to use these links.

First I read Planet of the Blind

An ABC television affiliate in northern Virginia reports that the Obama inauguration planning has been devised so as to discourage people with disabilities from attending. Surely one can understand how the problems of logistics--how to move people with mobility accommodations through the vast thrhongs of citizens who will be clogging the streets and the public transportation systems can't be easy to resolve. And yet I would argue that this logistical difficulty or the fact that making accommodations isn't easy is always the excuse that's trotted out by the benignly ableist city planners, architects, aircraft engineers, academic dean's offices, stadium officials, software developers, manufacturers of technologies, restaurant owners, oh on and on the list can go.

I wrote my post Standing By below. Then I heard from Bill over at Bad Cripple who said he wrote a post

How can the organizers of the inauguration justify the exclusion of people with disabilities? According to Carole Florman, spokeswoman for the the organizing committee "We can't do anything about traffic, we can't bring people closer for drop-off than the security perimeter will allow, we can't do anything about the fact that the city is closing bridges". Wow, that is a long list of things that can't be done.

and I found this post at The Right to Design

If you plan an event and just say "people with disabilities, we suggest you do not attend," you are not really confronting the real issues about what it is like to hold large, public events. Not to mention the symbolism of more or less disinviting disabled or older folks to what the new administration is claiming to be "the most open and accessible Inauguration in American history" (from a letter I received from Obama-Biden since I volunteered for their campaign). I really think we need to examine how logistical complications become an easy go-to for exclusion or prejudice in "homeland security" contexts.

At Feministe , it is suggested that advocates be asked for suggestions for solutions:

While it would probably be a logistical impossibility to do the same for every person with a disability who plans to attend, how hard would it be to charter a couple of accessible buses with security clearance and even guards if necessary? You could set up a drop-off point for people with disabilities/limited mobility (which seems to already exist), and do a few shuttle runs. The traffic may be extremely heavy, but it’s still doable. And that’s just my idea after thinking about it a few minutes — I’m sure that those who advocate for greater accessibility on a daily basis could come up with many other suggestions for them.

We need to approach these situations with a Yes We Can attitude. All of us acknowledge the security issues. We also know our infrastructure doesn't meet the demands of being included in everyday life - including transportation, housing, etc. Maybe, in fact, the inauguration highlights that in a way where more people will "get it" - certainly we as a society still engage in a denial about how far we have to go with inclusion. I've listened to friends weep who can't attend funerals or weddings, or spend holidays alone because houses are not accessible, or can't go with friends to events of all kinds. We've all been told that this is "our lot in life", this is "the way it is" and, on the other hand, we all wonder why a stigma still attaches to being disabled.

Yet when one says words like universal design, blank stares ensue. Why does this happen when we talk about solutions? Because in 2009 in the US, people still fail to believe that yes we can work together to change some of these problems, rather than viewing exclusion as the norm and giving in to no we can't. That is the message this is sending not only to adults with disabilities, but to our children with disabilities. And I want them to believe in our future and work toward yes.

Yes we can brainstorm solutions. Yes we can strive for better inclusion.

Yes we can start.


Other links:

Obama and Accessibility: A Disturbing Trend

Failing to plan is planning to fail--and when you're not including, you're excluding. (And don't tell me it's too hard, we KNOW you can overcome obstacles!)

What is this? Health care reform community discussion site is inaccessible?



william Peace said...

I agree with much of what you wrote but worry about statements such "we need to approach these situations with a Yes We Can Attitude". This implies there is a choice in the matter. The law is very clear--the ADA demands "reasonable accommodations" be made. These so called accommodations are often grossly inferior and I wonder to what degree Obama wanted to make the inauguration accessible or simply meet the minimum legal requirement. The lack of access at Obama events is quickly becoming a disturbing trend.

Greg said...

great post!

Stannah Stairlifts said...

A good post, with some useful ideas on how to make things more accessible for everyone.

Terri said...

Hi Ruth, did you see this?

Wheelie Catholic said...

Hadn't seen it, Terri - thanks very much for the link :)