Saturday, May 21, 2011

Making less of his condition

I am curious. By nature. And, I am curious when I see or read something that jars, or causes me to ask, "Why would he do that?"

In this case, a man in a wheelchair calls a reporter and publicly lambastes the city (which does a good job in most areas) of providing and ensuring accessibility for everyone is considered in design of public spaces. Road construction downtown has caused a gap in accessibility and the man lambastes our lack of consideration because of the lack of accessibility with this site for him and his wheelchair. As they put in new sidewalks a gap exists between concrete sidewalk and roadway. A gap too treacherous for a wheelchair user to traverse. He was stuck on one side of the street, unable to reach across the gap. Fortunately, passers-by come to his aid and carry his chair safely over the gap and to the other side of the street.

Good story. Good ending. Yup. And the flaw in planning needs to be exposed. Our thinking needs to be shaken. We need to be aware of the 'how what we do because it makes sense to our able-bodied perspective', impacts those with disabilities.

Is there a better way to pour new sidewalks to ensure, even in the process of creating, accessibility is considered?

Very important. To bring that awareness. To enter that discussion. To create those conversations.

Where I wonder, "why would he do that?" stems from his place of residence.

He doesn't live where he says. He lives in a homeless shelter.

And I wonder how the stigma of homelessness became so great he could not mention it when complaining about our insensitivity as a society to the needs of those with physical disabilities.

Did he believe it would undermine the value of drawing attention to the sidewalk gap?

Did he believe people would disregard him if he said he was homeless?

Did he fear being dismissed, that he would not be listened to?

Does he fear those things everyday? Does he experience them everyday.

I know he does.

It is the tragedy of homelessness.

And of being in a wheelchair.

Feeling less than, not because of your human condition, but rather because, our human perspective of your condition diminishes you to 'other than' what we deem, 'normal', or an appropriate condition of the human being.

It is sad. His fear of speaking up of what is true for his condition, makes less of his condition, for all of us, housed and homeless alike.


Anonymous said...


your blog makes sense for those of us who read that shoddy-reporting (because it was so ill-representative of accessibility issues) in the Calgary Herald this morning .... but anyone else reading your blog would have no context to understand what you are writing about

...perhaps an opening line or two explaining.

just sayin'


Louise Gallagher said...

Thanks Mark -- I'm hoping it now has context.

Enjoy your weekend -- reading and walking and writing and eating... :)

nance marie said...

i became a little more aware of wheel-access when i was pushing around a stroller.

i have to agree, as humans, our perspective is usually not at it's best.

S. Etole said...

You've spoken a powerful truth ... an unfortunate truth.