I will say it repeatedly until there is nobody left to tell. A world where everyone is treated as equals and disability is seen as a difference instead of a weakness is the world I strive for. Along with many other people. It’s not going to happen overnight. And even decades after the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, there is still a long way to go. Progress in baby steps makes me smile. This week I saw two examples of my community heading in the right direction.
Checkers Foods has been my grocery store of choice for several years. They have good produce. They always have lots of stuff on sale. And a few days ago, I learned they have an awareness about inclusion. My caregiver and I went inside to get some food to fill my fridge. Just inside the entrance, I saw something I have never seen before. It was a modified grocery cart that was built to accommodate wheelchairs. The sight was intriguing enough for me to go check it out. The basket in the front of the cart had been removed and a flat platform was in its place. Some pieces of the cart had been welded. And the access symbol was on the side. The same symbol that designates accessible parking spaces. I just love that little guy.
The result was that I could roll my wheelchair directly up to this cart, and put the groceries I wanted within it by myself. The whole thing was so much more comfortable than putting a small basket on my lap. That is painful sometimes. And with this cart, I could get a whole lot more food than I could ever fit in one of those portable baskets. I was psyched. Simple modifications to this grocery cart helped me to feel much more empowered and more “just the same” as everyone else in the store. And I’ve been talking about how cool this contraption is to a whole lot of people ever since I discovered it. That makes the whole thing a win-win all the way around.
The other thing that impressed me was that I saw a guy who worked at the store watching me as I was figuring out how this cart worked. However, he didn’t approach me until I asked for his help. My guess is that he didn’t want to take away my independence. When other people have that awareness, it makes me smile big. He didn’t doubt my ability and was available to assist me as soon as I said the word. The whole experience was pretty darn awesome!
A few days later, I went to the community coop with a friend, and we decided to have a cup of coffee. After we ordered, we went to find a place to sit. There were stools available for people who could use them, and a table in the middle of the room that was completely accessible. The table had a sign on it that said, “this table is reserved for people with disabilities when needed.”
What I appreciated most was the wording. The sign did not say “this table is only reserved for people with disabilities” with the implication that nobody else was ever allowed to sit there. It also was not a table that was in the corner of the room. To me, the sign was a message of welcome. My take was that it said “If you are a person with a disability and having a low table would make this establishment easier for you to enjoy, then we’ve got you covered. But you are also one of the crowd. We will not separate you from anyone else or designate a particular table that calls attention to your differences. If you need this accommodation, it is here for you.”
Neither one of the modifications I discovered this week seemed to be a big deal. The grocery cart required some welding. The sign on the table probably was made on a computer in a matter of minutes. Both of those things spoke to my heart. They said “We will meet you where you are to let you know that you are wanted here. In my world, that kind of stuff is incredibly powerful.
I will say it repeatedly until there is nobody left to tell. A world where everyone is treated as equals and disability is seen as a difference instead of a weakness is a world that I strive for.