A Necessary Evil?

Nov 23, 2010
Tagged with:

On the bus ride to work this morning, as I sat there listening to my music while looking out the window and mentally sorting through my day, I noticed the following signs on the front door to a restaurant:

…the first sign indicating that there is no smoking allowed and the second indicating that the restaurant is accessible for people with disabilities.

Usually, when I see signs that indicate accessibility, I am encouraged. I am reminded that we are taking steps forward to increase the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of society. But today, for some reason, my thoughts went a different direction. Maybe it was because these two signs were next to each other and I had never noticed that before…I don’t know. But I what I found myself thinking was this, “When will we reach the point that it is no longer necessary to put a sign on your front door saying that your building or program or service or whatever is inside is accessible?”

Don’t get me wrong, I think that using universally recognized symbols to highlight buildings/features/programs/etc that are accessible and inclusive is absolutely necessary now. In fact, in my work with fitness facility staff members, I often encourage them to be sure to use language and symbols that specifically welcomes people with disabilities and informs them of what is accessible/inclusive. Because, as it stands, we currently live in a world where many things are not accessible/inclusive, so letting people know that they are openly welcomed and can use what is inside is critical. Unfortunately, our society is still at a place where it is safer to assume something is inaccessible…because that is often the case.

But when will the tables turn? When will the assumption be that all things are accessible and inclusive? When will the assumption be that the facility/program/service was designed so that ALL people can participate? When will the time come when it so obvious and understood that everything is accessible that it no longer makes sense to put that sign on your door?

That time is not now. And I’m not sure when that time will be…or how we will know when that time has arrived… And maybe when we have achieved an “inclusive society” we will still want those signs. Again, I don’t know. But what I do know is that I look forward to the time when we can look back and think of how crazy it was to have ever lived in a society that so often excluded so many people in so many different ways.

Author: Carolyn