It’s here at last, the final instalment in the series, The A-E-I-O-U’s of Accessibility! It’s bittersweet reaching this point, but more than a sadness at seeing this series come to an end, I’m excited to see where we take it going forward in our lives. I, as much as anyone else, have so much to learn, so much to explore, and I for one, am so excited!
A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y… isn’t that the rhyme we’ve been taught when learning our alphabet? Y’s place on the list of vowels is questionable, but on this list, there’s no argument.
Y is for Yes!
I’m not a natural adventurer. I’ve grown into this aspect of my personality and primarily, it’s come through practice and repetition. When faced with “hey Rhianna, do you want to go [camping, spelunking, skydiving, etc, you can fill in the blank], my instinctual response is to say no in favour of staying securely within my comfort zone at home with a cup of coffee, my guide dog and the familiarity of my surroundings.
But I’m learning to say yes. Not always to adventures of the outdoor variety because to be frank, I don’t believe I’ll ever enjoy them. One needs only to ask my ex-boyfriend to find out how grumpy I am on camping trips. But in non-outdoor environments, ones that are designed to grow me as a person and expand the limited perspective I’ve become accustomed to from living inside Rhianna’s brain for 26 years, I’m learning to say yes.
So, when the conversation turns to accessibility, I’m learning to always say yes.
Recently, I was asked if I thought the perception around disability and disabled people in society was improving. Yes, I said, when it came to physical accessibility and the ways in which we can accommodate different bodies; more buildings have wheelchair ramps, there’s more education and resources available on adaptive equipment and the creation of those devices are becoming more widely known and recognized in the non-disabled community.
But I also said no, I didn’t believe it was improving in the places where it counts the most–in the hearts of the people we love and do life with.
When I’m being “helped” across the street against my will, I do not feel trusted as an individual, capable of making safe decisions. When I’m denied access to establishments because I work with a guide dog, I feel discriminated against because of a tool that gives me independence in a way I’ve never had before and that many people take for granted. When a disabled person is praised and viewed as inspiring for being able to use a microwave, we are belittled. When our disabilities make able-bodied people thankful that they aren’t like us, we are pushed to the margins of society.
Until our disabilities are seen as an asset, until we are treated as people, until we are valued as equal members of society and not pushed to the sidelines, we have not grasped the true meaning of acceptance, love and equality.
there is so much work still to be done. And the best way to do this is to say yes.
But how, Rhianna? What do we say yes to? Oh, I’m so glad you asked!
- Say yes to making the lives of disabled people as fulfilling and lifegiving as possible.
- Say yes when disabled people need you to cheer them on in the fight against ableism and discrimination.
- Say yes, I trust you, when disabled people tell you they don’t need help.
- Say yes, I’ll help you, when a disabled person does reach out for help.
- Say yes to seeing people with disabilities as people and not broken objects in need of fixing.
- Say yes to being our allies and not our enemies.
- Say yes, I see you for you and not what is or is not on the outside.
We are people. And people deserving of the same human dignity, value and love that every human deserves.
But we also have disabilities, and those parts of us are just as valuable, just as worthy and just as in need of love and equality as any other.
Come with me and let’s work to create a world of accessibility, equality, trust and care for every person in it. Because when we make the world a better place for one person, it becomes a better place for everyone.
Well? What do you say?