Access and a potentially shrinking world

Once again, this is not the post I wanted to write, but it’s important. I may elaborate later, but this post explains some of the self- and general advocacy I’ve been taken up with lately.

The world, physically, is going to get a lot less accessible and a lot more expensive towards the end of the year for quite a few people if the transit crisis facing my city is not addressed. Last year’s crisis, the one that’s giving my stick and my energy such a workout, is nothing compared to this one. This time, it’s going to disable a huge part of the city. And I’m using “disable” deliberately, in the sense of the social model. This time, paratransit is being cut drastically along with bus routes, so that people who are already disabled will be made more so depending on where they live. If they don’t live within three quarters of a mile of a remaining bus route, they will lose service completely. If they live within distance but are going somewhere that isn’t near a remaining bus route, they cannot go to that place using paratransit.

I’m told that the three-quarter mile rule is the minimum under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and my city has exceeded that requirement for a long time. But scaling back to the bare minimum doesn’t feel like consolation. Perhaps the three-quarter mile rule is all right when paratransit is paired with a thriving bus system, but when it’s tied to bus routes that are being eliminated to such a great extent, it feels like a large step backwards. People with disabilities are paying more than people without, to get a less efficient and more reduced service.

And no one seems to care. So far, only one paper has devoted an article to the effects of bus cuts on the paratransit system. This paper does not have nearly the readership of our major newspapers, who haven’t said much more than a footnote.

And so I sent an e-mail thanking the writer of the article. I do that when people get it right, be they reporters or programmers or what have you. I signed an online petition. I wrote an extremely long comment on the bus website. I am trying to write more letters. All of this I did out loud, the words flashing onto my screen reminding me again that I have a voice even if half the time the machine is the only one that hears me physically.

I’m deeply grateful for the technology that allows me to do this, as much of my blog reflects. For the computer I’m staring at. For the Dragon or the WSR that transmits my and others’ voices to the Internet that allows us, we hope, to be read and thereby heard. I’m not thinking right now of the rude programmers who don’t make things compatible. I’m just thinking of the fact that it’s here, that I’m using it to try to speak to a small part of the world. I’m thinking of the people who get it right. I’m grateful for the people who hear me and others.

Again, I have to summon the phrase “help from the world,” because that is the only thing that’s going to make the world accessible. People have to listen when PWD tell them there’s something wrong. They have to acknowledge it, and use their own energy to help fix it. The onus can’t solely be on PWD. I wish I had something more eloquent to say, but I don’t. I have sadness and anger and hope and a hell of a lot of words. And now it’s up to this little part of the world to see how much of it remains accessible.

[For background on “help from the world”, see Help from the world, or typing versus speech and/or In subdued honor of That Thereof.]

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3 Responses to Access and a potentially shrinking world

  1. The transportation issue is so thorny. I don’t know what city you’re in, but I’ve been following New York City’s resistance to increasing its number of accessible taxis over the last few months with morbid curiosity and more than a little disgust. Cities don’t seem to get that when you don’t provide convenient, accessible transportation options for people with disabilities, you might as well be telling them outright that you don’t care about whether they can get their needs met in the community, or about the potential contributions that they can make to community life. It’s sad, and very disappointing.

    Keep making your voice heard. It’s vitally important to do so.

  2. Lene says:

    Without the ability to get where you need to go, there is no equality. Thank so for this post.

  3. Ruth Madison says:

    “People have to listen when PWD tell them there’s something wrong. They have to acknowledge it, and use their own energy to help fix it. The onus can’t solely be on PWD”

    Agreed!

    This is an issue we should all care about and help with.

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