Accessibility does not end at ramps and when you are not easily accessible for a disabled person we feel excluded and it can have a huge negative impact on us. There have been a few times when Karly has had to deal with inaccessibility and today she explains how it negatively affected her.
Growing up with muscular dystrophy meant I grew up with inaccessibility. My first house had a flight of stairs. I didn’t have PE class with everyone else. My friends always had to come over to my house because I couldn’t get in theirs. As much as I don’t enjoy any of this, it’s also just always been something that I had to accept. If I got upset every time I encountered inaccessibility, I wouldn’t have much time to do anything else. When something is your normal, it becomes a lot easier to tolerate, even if you shouldn’t have to.
But there’s been a few times that really stand out to me. Here are three times inaccessibility made a big impact on my life.
When I had to stay on the bus for the entire field trip
Every little kid looks forward to field trip day. I was definitely no exception. I was around 10 or so, and we were going to Gettysburg. But no one told me that when we got there, most of the day would be spent climbing up steep hills, none of which were paved. In order to participate, you’d have to climb steps, rocks, or slick grassy hills. In the rain. Obviously, I couldn’t do that. So they sent me back to the bus. For the entire day, by myself. I just sat with the bus driver for hours.
I’ll never forget getting back to the classroom at the end of the day and burying my head in my arms and trying not to cry. A few teachers came by and asked if I was ‘so tired from having so much fun?’. Even though they were all on the trip and clearly didn’t notice that I wasn’t with them all day. It’s one of the first times I remember truly understanding that other people just didn’t understand what being excluded like that was like.
Missing out on all the senior events in high school
Graduating high school is such a busy few months. You have a ton to prepare for, but there are also so many fun events going on. At my school, there was senior week, which ends with senior skip day where everyone goes on a special field trip to a water park. Plus, there were grad night events at Disney. And of course, we can’t forget that everyone had a graduation party.
And I didn’t participate in any of it. I obviously couldn’t go to senior skip day at the water park, because well. I can’t swim and power wheelchairs don’t mix well with water. I still had to go to school though, because since I wasn’t going on the trip my ap lang teacher told me I wasn’t allowed to skip and doing my exam another day. There are a few times I’ve felt that kind of rage, it was a real angsty week for teenager me. Grad nights were out because I wouldn’t have had anyone to help me while I was there and my mom wouldn’t be able to go since it was so late at night. And I didn’t know a single person with an accessible home so I couldn’t go to any parties.
It’s hard to feel like you’re celebrating when you can’t actually make it to any of the celebrations. And every time I think back to graduation, all I think about is how bummed I was for the last 3 months of high school. I was stoked to be done with school, but very much upset that I didn’t get that fun senior experience all my friends got.
When I couldn’t complete my drug test for my very first job.
It took me almost two full years to finally get a job offer after I graduated from college. The whole process for starting was such a whirlwind for me. I had no idea what I was doing and I was completely terrified of starting. After job hunting for that long, my confidence was pretty shaken. But most of all, I was so overwhelmingly excited to finally be starting.
I had to go for my drug test, which I was already nervous because bathrooming isn’t as simple for me. I can’t do it on my own. When we got to the facility, I was already overwhelmed by how inaccessible the exam rooms were. So tiny I could barely get my wheelchair in and turn around. And the bathroom was absolutely not wheelchair accessible. Mine didn’t even fit in the room fully.
That didn’t matter, though, because they refused to let me have my mom assist me in giving a sample. We offered every suggestion we could think of, from leaving the door open to giving a blood sample instead. Every single one was turned down. When we asked what we were supposed to do in my situation, they had nothing to offer me. I had to leave. I was in a complete panic that after all, I’d been through, I was going to lose the only job I’d ever been offered because a medical facility of all places wasn’t ADA compliant and refused to provide a reasonable accommodation.
In the end, I had to drive to a different facility much further away and turn in my drug test a little later. But it left a horrible taste in my mouth, and there’s a small fear in the back of my mind that I’ll have to deal with it again if/when I ever get a new job that requires a drug test.
Accessibility is something that most people never think of unless it directly impacts their life.
Until it becomes something that everyone collaborates on and equally prioritizes, inaccessibility is going to continue to be a struggle that disabled, chronically ill, and elderly people largely face on their own. Businesses, homes, medical facilities, parks – all of it should be accessible. Not only because we’re consumers with money to add to the economy, but because we’re human beings. And equal access is our right. We deserve to be a part of our communities, and we shouldn’t have to beg for things that are a given for our abled peers.
Thank you, Karly, for writing this very informative guest post it was a very interesting read and helpful in allowing me to have extra time to get stuff done. If you liked this post I encourage you to head on over to Karly’s blog for so many more great posts. If you have any questions about how inaccessibility can negatively affect a disabled person please leave them in the comments below and I will do my best to answer.