Wheelchair riders are not the only disabled people. May 18, 2012Posted by fetzthechemist in Uncategorized.
In the US, there is a law called the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
AS originally intended, the ADA was a wide-ranging law aimed to bring in people with a disability to the mainstream of life in the US. It forbade restrictions that might be based on a disability. The definition of deisability was, as with many laws, not strictly defined, nor were these rights to access to society. Over the years this has led to several convolutions that actually do not help many disabled people or that overall harm society.
Since the law allows a person to sue an institution or business that has not complied with ADA, there have been thousands and thousands of lawsuited for mobility-impaired people against stores and other places that do not have wheelchair ramps or doors and aisles wide enough to accomodate today’s large powered wheelchairs. This has, thus, become the main focus of ADA compliance.
I am visually impair, having been born with one eye that sees only light or dark vague shapes (the scale of 20/20 means nothing because I cannot see anything but the bright area of the eyechart with that eye) and nothing of substance. My other, my left eye, has always had very poor vision, at its best only 20/80, but usually worse. Does this limit me in the “major life activities” mentioned in ADA? First, I cannot drive. Being monocular means I have almost no depth perception. I cannot accurately judge distances and speeds as needed to drive. Second, I cannot read most signage without a much greater effort than the “normal” person. So something as ordering fast food from a wall sign is virtually impossible. When I was in school, even sitting in the front row of a class was of little help. The writing often was just squiggles. (This was true from first grade through grad school – fortunately I learned to listen to instructors, teachers, and professors or I read the textbooks and rememberred everything.)
Does ADA help me? No. Businesses do not have readable signs and the alternative of a menu to look at depends solely on the place. Are there good directions when I use the public transit I must (because I often have no other way)? No. Each new experience is a fumbling mess of trying to figure things out and asking anyone who might be around for help. Since I travel a lot, this can be a very daunting situation.
I write this because recently on the local metro train (BART) on the way back from the San Francisco airport, I was sitting and a very heavy woman with a cane plopped herself down next to me in the empty half of the seat. Or more correctly, she sat down partially there and partly on top of me. Without an “Excuse me” she said “You have to move over because I have a disability and deserve this space.” I was almost livid. Her disability might have been back legs because she was well over 300 pounds and her legs had given out. But her arrogance in thinking she was the privileged disabled person was what got to me. ADA has created a group of certain disability who hold that they are the only ones that count.