Improvements made in access for the disabled

  • October 3, 2008
  • Bruce Bromley

Friday, September 26, 2008
Jackson Citizen Patriot

This fall I am turning over a new leaf. What a superb time of year! The humid pressure cooker that can be southern Michigan in August has given way to scores of days that have beautiful blue skies, white puffy clouds and mild temperatures.

As I gaze onto my deck and backyard, a few hardy petunias and geraniums are still hanging in there, but I can also see the plant stands, benches, tables and various other items that need a coat of paint. Here is the plan: I will attempt to get some painting done this fall and there should be less to do in the spring.

The thing about painting and other household chores when you are a person with limited mobility is that it requires lots of forethought.

Many of us just do not have the physical stamina to make a lot of trips for supplies. On the way from the garage, my wheelchair looks like the truck from “The Beverly Hillbillies.” Paint cans, brushes, rags and tarps hang everywhere.

Also stuffed beside are paint trays and stir sticks. What an ordeal! Ah, but it is such a great sense of accomplishment to actually complete a household project, no matter how long it takes.

The problem with getting things done this time of year is that there are so many cool things to do. My family will make its annual pilgrimage to area apple orchards, farms and campgrounds; go to a ballgame or two; and enjoy bonfires. The cider, doughnuts, hot dogs and smores are not part of my diet. But eat anything in moderation. Right?

Do you know how I know the world for people with disabilities is changing for the better? There are people with disabilities everywhere we go. I was telling a friend the other day that there are so many wheelchairs and power carts at the grocery store that I just keep hearing John Lennon in my head, “I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round/How I love to watch them roll.”

To me, the single greatest thing we can do as people with disabilities is to be active. When we get to know people and places, we put a human face on our struggles. The Americans with Disabilities Act is an important set of guidelines and should be the ultimate goal, but we do not live in a perfect world. We have a responsibility to help the world know how it can help us.

Let’s try not to beat up businesses and individuals that are making a good-faith effort toward accessibility. A great friend of mine, Tom Swain, is fond of saying, “Don’t just come at people with a problem. Come up with some possible solutions and then discuss the problem.”

We also should realize that there is a time and a place to discuss accessibility problems. It makes so much more sense to make a phone call, set up a meeting or drop a note pointing out an issue rather than confronting a manager during a busy, stressful time.

As disability rights advocates we are willing to work on a problem, but keep in mind we are usually there to see the show, watch a movie, have dinner or enjoy an evening out.