Just two days ago, I received my new Access Is Love shirt in the mail. I’m so proud to share my support for Access Is Love, which “aims to help build a world where accessibility is understood as an act of love, instead of a burden or afterthought. It is an initiative to raise awareness about accessibility and encourage people to incorporate access in their everyday practices and lives.”
I wrote a few words on my new Instagram page about why accessibility matters to me, and I thought I’d expand more on it here, since there is so much to say about access anyhow. I had said that accessibility is crucial not only to physical places and spaces, but also socially. It promotes inclusion, too.
I always have to plan ahead before going anywhere, because I need to know if the location is accessible. Not knowing can really make me anxious. Will there be too many stairs? Is there an elevator, or only an escalator, which I can not use? How will I get there?
This last question is practically another topic in and of itself, because I’m mostly referring to the horrendously inaccessible New York City subway system. I can not navigate (rather, I refuse to navigate) the subway alone. There are too many stairs, which I’ve almost fallen down way too many times to keep count, even with a companion to keep me safe. I will be honest and say I do not trust other people when it comes to certain aspects of my disability. No, I do not assume a non-disabled subway rider will hold the door open for me. No, I do not know that other people will know how to help me if I trip and fall trying to get on the train. I can’t afford to assume things like that. Other people are not always going to help me, and that’s just a fact, so I have to know how to help myself. Part of that is taking initiative if I am traveling alone by seeking other forms of transportation that I am more comfortable and secure using.
Greater awareness about accessibility also raises the level of what I like to call “disability consciousness” in the non-disabled community. In my own experience some non-disabled folks, at least some that I’ve interacted with in my lifetime, just do not fully grasp what it means to live with a disability…which includes all of the social, cultural, political, and emotional aspects of such an identity. They do not grasp it, and some are not even aware of it at all. I can’t tell you how many people have admitted to me that they’ve never heard of cerebral palsy, at least before meeting me. Just imagine that stunning lack of awareness for a second with the facts staring right at you: CP is the most common motor disability in children, with prevalence estimates ranging from “1.5 to more than 4 per 1,000 live births,” according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Increasing accessibility in places and spaces is in my opinion only a small part of the work that needs to be done to raise the level of disability consciousness, but it’s definitely a wonderful place to start. Maybe then some in the non-disabled community will becomes more cognizant of the challenges us in the disabled community tackle every single day.
If you want to show your Access Is Love support and swagger, please click right here. All proceeds from AIL will benefit the House of GG, the first national retreat site, educational and historical center solely dedicated to the trans community in the United States.