Yesterday was discouraging. Our Rotary Club meeting was scheduled at a new brewery in town. Craft brewing is a big industry here on the “lost coast,” and while I don’t partake, I was looking forward to seeing the new facility and learning the history of the company. However, my husband Brad heard the word “steps” and went in to investigate.
Twenty years after ADA, there wasn’t an elevator in sight, and the meeting was to be held up on the second floor. We’re fairly new members of this Rotary Club, and so pretty visible. Everyone knows I use a wheelchair. Brad was not pleased, and told the outgoing President we would not be attending the meeting, and why. For an organization which has made the eradication of polio its raison d’etre, and has donated a good number of wheelchairs locally, we were disturbed by the lack of awareness and sensitivity over matters of accessibility for its members (there are others who use canes and walkers).
So we went to the Co-op deli to pick up sandwiches and eat them at my husband’s office. Lo and behold, the lift which allows wheelchair users to get to the main entrance level was locked. My husband’s badge, which allows him into the building, wouldn’t unlock it; it required the special key fob he uses for the parking lot. Brad was really displeased by now, and went in to talk to the building staff. He simply couldn’t make them understand why this was a problem. “Of course people can’t wander around the building without a badge,” they told him. “No, he said, “my wife can’t even get into the building. She can’t get into the elevator to get into the building. Why is it locked?” Apparently some renovation had been done, and somewhere along the line someone messed up and locked the elevator, and no one had fixed it yet. And no one saw it as a problem.
To my dear husband it was a huge problem. When I tried to explain that no one in a wheelchair could get into the building, the general response was, “So?” They responded I could just ask the security guard to ring my husband. No one could seem to get it through their head that I couldn’t get to the security guard if I couldn’t get into the elevator.
I want to think that since my husband is in senior management at his government agency, something will be done, and done soon. But I can’t be sure of that. After our conversations with people around the building, it just didn’t seem to be an issue for anyone else but us. And this seems to be true in so many places. Until someone is personally affected with a disability issue, it simply isn’t a priority. But we need to change that mindset. Because when someone needs the ramp, or the elevator, or the automatic door opener, or the parking space, it won’t just simply appear. It has to be planned and put in place well before, and then kept in working order for all who need it.
I try not to chuckle that a church where I worshipped, that wouldn’t ramp its chancel, has had one pastor break his ankle and another sprain her foot. How helpful a ramped chancel would have been! I try not to think that God was trying to tell them something, that maybe there was just a little whisper in the ear going on, a little example of what worship was like for those who could not approach the altar, a little urging to get that chancel ramped, and ramp it soon. Luckily, it’s an easy fix.
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19
Our Mission U’s are continuing to open hearts, minds and doors across the denomination with their studies for women and children. Let us continue to lift up the leaders and the students, and give thanks for the writers of the studies, Beth Miller and Bishop Peggy A. Johnson.
Dear Empowering God, Thank you for the gift of being differently abled. Thank you for allowing us to see the world in different ways, and being able to navigate the world so creatively. Help us to find the doors that are not open, the messages that cannot be seen or heard, the restless hearts and minds that seek your calming touch. Equip us to be your messengers of love and inclusiveness in a world that may not see, hear or understand us or our needs. In the name of Jesus, the great Healer, Amen