Advocacy in Disability Rights
By Cyndi Jones, Publisher
A few weeks ago I experienced what you might call a "reality check."
I had been invited to give the keynote address at a national conference. When I arrived at the airport, it was like one of those TV commercials where a driver is holding a sign with someone's name on it -- only it was my name.
Gee, I thought, I've really arrived. It was wonderful not to have to worry about ground transportation and to be promptly on my way to the hotel.
This was quite different from my normal experience. I usually use my inbound arrival to test the local ground transportation's capacity for offering "equivalent service." What this means is that I seldom call ahead to arrange my ground transportation other than to find out the name of the "regular" shuttle service. This also means that I always allow several hours upon arrival to get to my hotel -- knowing that "equivalent" isn't the same for all air travelers.
So you can imagine my surprise to see a driver standing there with my name on his sign. I thought for a moment that I was in one of those dream scenes. Wake up! Wake up!
Everything went smoothly. The hotel had my reservation and indeed it was an accessible room. Then another amazing thing happened: a knock at my door and a fruit and cheese plate for my pleasure, compliments of a local city official who deals with disability issues. I was now sure that I was in someone else's dream.
I confess that these events were rapidly going to my head. And I was beginning to like living this other person's life. I could get used to this!
Actually, what I was beginning to like was that the systems worked. The shuttle company had accessible service. The hotel actually had, and reserved, an accessible room. I enjoyed living like most business travelers.
The next morning, I guess I must have slept through the stroke of midnight. When I awoke the carriage started turning back into a pumpkin.
As I was escorted to the luncheon following my speech, the reality I am accustomed to began to reappear with a very steep, very temporary ramp at the entrance to the dining room.
The following day, I had to do a few errands that took a little longer than expected. As I was hurrying to get to the closing lunch, a strange thought slowed me down, "what if they have removed that temporary ramp?"
Thank goodness for that thought. As I made the turn to go down that steep ramp three steps had taken its place.
I was shocked that the hotel had not waited for me to check out first. A waiter asked me if he should go and get the ramp. What was he thinking? How was I going to get down to the lunch if he didn't? But I just said "No, it won't be necessary" and wheeled out.
The rapid contrast between the illusion of how far we had come, and the reality of how far we have yet to go, overwhelmed me.
As I sat by the hotel entrance for an hour and a half waiting for the shuttle that turned out to have no record of my reservation, I knew the horses had turned back into mice.
But this fairy tale can have a happy ending. We have no illusion of the unfinished work that lies before us. As each of us goes out testing, litigating, and pushing the system into compliance, eventually the system will fit our needs, too.
The glass slipper awaits us.
Cyndi Jones is Publisher of MAINSTREAM.
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