Sunday, June 3, 2012

D.C.--Capital of Accessible America

As a wheelchair user, my definition of freedom may differ, at times, from that of other young women my age. Sure--I dream of backpacking solo across Europe, road-tripping across the States in a beat up old Volkswagen, or even living in a different country for a year like any other girl does. But to me, freedom also means successfully catching the bus to meet a friend at the movies or just navigating the city while running errands without having problems navigating steps or lack of elevators. Simple successes such as these can be just as meaningful to individuals with disabilities as the grand ones are, such as traveling around the world alone. In many ways, they are more important because these successes are the essence of our everyday lives--they are not just some fantastic adventures, they are the fundamental activities that allow us to live, learn, and work on a day-to-day basis. 

In the city of Washington D.C., I have felt more free than I have in a very long time. No, i am not zip-lining across the Amazon, but I can run to Target without having to rely on someone else to give me a ride. I can shop downtown without needing a ready "plan of attack" for when there are suddenly no curb cuts at the end of the block. The city's infrastructure is the best on the East Coast, in my opinion, with its public transit system's accessibility and ease of use second to none. 
Many major Eastern cities are largely historical and, although efforts to preserve their histories are important and justified, they unfortunately clash most of the time with the equally important need to make these beautiful cities accessible to America's largest minority: individuals with disabilities.          

In D.C. however this is not the case. I have never encountered a lack of curb cuts in any part of the city, and I have never missed out on any of the sightseeing activities, including the beautiful and extensive monuments and museums that the city is home to. Although it is one of my favorite neighborhoods in D.C., I have encountered some problems with Georgetown. A lot of the shops and restaurants here are flanked with at least a couple of steps at the entrance--although many offer outdoor seating. But, there are still plenty of wonderful places to visit, shop, and eat in Georgetown, and it's one of my favorite places for adventures on relaxed Sunday mornings. If you're in the mood for Turkish (I always am!), check out Cafe Divan; their Yorgurtlu Kebab is to die for!

I love living in this beautiful, hip, and exciting city and even have a great time just walking and exploring Foggy Bottom. 
I guess it makes sense that our "land of the free's" capital is the place where I have felt the most free. 

Keep it up, DC! As we as a nation progress, I hope that other U.S. cities look to you as inspiration. 

--Liz H. 

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