Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Four Weeks Already?

Wow. It is hard to believe we have been here in D.C. for four weeks now. Some days it feels like I just got here and some days it feels as though I have been here for years. Regardless how long it feels, being in D.C. as an AAPD intern has changed me.

At first I began to empathize with my fellow interns who have disabilities that affect how they navigate throughout the day, getting from place to place, entering and exiting buildings and vehicles. Then, when I was with another intern with a mobility impairment or a sensory impairment, I began to see (but not experience) their struggles first hand. Now I see the potential for one of my fellow interns, many of whom I now proudly call friends, to struggle with access in a number of ways, even when they are not with me. I have begun to take notice of the Metro announcements that alert us to elevator closures. It was not an issue to me in the past- the disability support services office at my university sends out an email when an elevator is down. It did not register with me the impact a closure has on many disabled people. I am certainly aware now. Indeed, when I consider activities with my new friends, I take into consideration their ability to readily, easily, and hopefully painlessly access whatever it is we are planning on going.

I was fortunate enough to attend the U.S. Open Golf Championship in Bethesda, MD on Sunday. Although I went alone, there were many times when I found myself wondering how my friends would have navigated the course, enjoyed the competition, and found a way to use all of the temporary and not so accessible buildings, tents, and other structures. Although much in the world has changed because of the disability movement, so much more needs to be done. Not only do attitudes need to change, we must have people who consider the struggles of all those with disabilities when planning and designing layouts of events and buildings, whether they are temporary or permanent, so that all may enjoy them. Yes, it was just a golf tournament. That is not the point. The point is, without sound trite, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” It is up to all of us to ensure that everyone have the opportunity to attain that.

Rick Sommer

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