The post below was from the first week of the “Invisible Issues” blog in 2007 on the Chronicle-Tribune website. The mobility theme is one I will build on later this week. When I watch a squirrel scampering outside my home, it still makes me think of Chris’s question.
I used to teach sixth grade science, and I smile as I remember one day when I was explaining Indiana’s historic landscapes. “Our state used to be so covered with trees that a squirrel could cross from one side of Indiana to another by jumping from tree to tree.” Thinking this could lead to an in depth discussion about deforestation or land use, I was happy to call on a student who had his hand enthusiastically raised high. “Yes, Chris?” “Mrs. Knight, why would a squirrel want to go across the whole state?” Obviously, he missed my point, but he had a different point: was it necessary that a squirrel be able to jump across Indiana via the treetops? In the same way, how necessary is it that the world be accessible to all?
Unlike a cute little squirrel who can scurry easily without jumping across the treetops, people are affected by lack of accessibility more often than we realize. I recently read a book There Is Room at the Inn, about accessible Inns and Bed and Breakfasts across the country. Author Candy B. Harrington had an interesting time as she interviewed various proprietors. One establishment was marketed as “accessible” for persons in wheelchairs, but when visiting she found that while the room inside was accessible, a person had to walk ten stairs in order to enter the building. The owner’s explanation: “Well, my friend is in a wheelchair, but she can just be carried up the stairs, and somebody can carry her wheelchair. Then she’s fine.”It is great to offer assistance to those who need it, but to assume they’re fine living in a limited world, always being carried up flights of stairs rather than having options of entering at least somewhat independently, is shortsighted. As the population ages and faces the associated challenges, I think we will all have a growing sensitivity here. Squirrels around my home leap and scurry just fine without a forest, but many of us aren’t quite so lucky as we travel from place to place.
first posted by Angie Knight on May 26, 2007