Why We Shouldn't Excuse Inaccessibility

Last week I went on a weekend trip with my family. We did so many fun things, so many amazing memories were made, and many laughs were shared. While I was there, though, my family and I went shopping in an area that turned out to not be very accessible. This didn’t turn out to be much of a problem for my family and I, at least not after a flat wheelchair tire issue was solved, but that’s a discussion for another time.

I am a part time wheelchair user, meaning that when I came to a store with steps at the entrance, I could just walk into the store using my crutches — that’s why the lack of accessibility wasn’t really much of a problem for us. Many wheelchair users, however, are not capable of doing this and days later I am still thinking of those people and what it must feel like to not be able to go into certain stores at all because they aren’t accessible. I got a small taste, but it’s their everyday reality.

Like many problems that plague the disabled community, people make excuses for why it’s OK that this happens. They justify it, and they come up with so many things that are apparently more important than a disabled person having equal access “It would cost too much money to make these buildings accessible!” “The businesses may have to be shut down while these accommodations are being added!” “Fixing all of these places isn’t practical!” “It’s too difficult to add accommodations to old buildings!” There are just a million excuses people use — myself included in the past, if I am being completely honest with you — to justify people with disabilities being denied entry into buildings and stores because they’re not accessible.

None of those excuses should come before giving people with disabilities equal access — to these businesses, to these buildings, and to the world as a whole. I also realized although this isn’t really my own personal problem, it needs a solution. People with disabilities don’t deserve to be excluded, brushed to the side, and made to feel less important than everyone else. People with disabilities deserve support when it come to these issues, not counterarguments that excuse their poor treatment just because it’s been the norm for so long. Not to mention, just because myself and other part time wheelchair users can get out of their own wheelchairs to walk into stores doesn’t mean we should have to — it’s more difficult for us, the older we get the more painful walking can become for many of us, and it’s an added hassle trying to figure out who will watch the wheelchair while the wheelchair user is inside the store or the building so it doesn’t get stolen. Yes, people steal wheelchairs.

People who use wheelchairs, even part time, deserve better than that. Even able-bodied people deserve better than that — you might not realize it, but accessible buildings could benefit you in many ways as well. We all deserve better — so let’s do better, expect better, and demand better.

Getty image by George Doyle.

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