Many years ago, when I was on the Accessibility Committee for the City of Burlington, we on the committee repeatedly told the city that replacing the cement walkways in the downtown, pedestrian mall, with bricks was a bad idea. (Someone told me recently I am till on the committee, although it never meets.) In winter the bricks hold a film of water, that becomes ice. This does not seem to be an issue for most people. However, for those of us with gimpy legs, walking becomes treacherous, and shopping a chore.
We also explained to the City that having the one inside mall entrance with automatic doors, be two blocks off the main pedestrian street (Church Street), was also a poor idea. After all, it’s a trek to that entrance, and that’s a challenge in the winter. We also pointed out that curb cuts would be helpful. (To their credit, they put in curb-cuts.) The City’s response was to have the committee remain on the books but never meet – effectively silencing he voice of disabled Burlington residents.
I’m thinking about this for two reasons: winter is coming, and I am going soon to another country, India. India comes with many mobility challenges, especially stairs and street crossings (they are actively working on this!). I am so very thankful for elevators, and pedestrian right-of-ways! I am also aware we could do better here in the U.S.. For instance, when the new Borders was placed in an entirely remodeled building on Church Street, no one from the City insisted they put in an automatic door. The result is that persons on crutches or in chairs must ask others to hold the doors open for them. While this can allow for some nice moments, it can also be deeply wounding, as it places those of us with mobility issues in a dependent position. Then there are the numerous shops on second and third stories in the downtown area that are totally inaccessible.
So here I sit, grateful for the relative accessibility of our city, and knowing we could do much better. I’m also saddened by the City’s, and the Progressive Party’s( they have long been in governance) marginalization of persons with disabilities. It seems to me this marginalization is intentional, wrong-headed, and harmful. Disability is inconvenient. So are inclusion, compassion, and caring, which are also morally correct.