universal (soldier)

December 7, 2016

As an alternative, I wanted to study architecture at university but instead I took computer science at another institution: both interested me and I’m not sure why I chose one over the other. Afterwards, I was invited to teach at my alma matter.  I have since experienced a revolving door between academe and industry and at times having both feet on “contentious” worlds (perhaps, this is why I strongly feel “faith without works” is not enough).

I’ve always admired “good” design. Usability has always fascinated me and acquiring a brain injury has made me more so.  I am not a big disciple of fate but it’s only natural that I find Universal Design appealing. It seems to be a confluence of interests and experiences that is beginning to define my path.  Admittedly, I still have a lot to learn but at least it’s an option for me.

I can understand why heritage or old buildings have their accessible entrances at the back but there is no excuse for “newer” stuff – we shouldn’t be considered as second-class citizens (even when it’s not intentional).  It disturbs me when toilet doors are too heavy or they swing towards (or the space is too cramped for) our mobility devices – even if they don’t have personal experience with this, they should be made aware and conscious of these constraints.  Don’t get me started on physical environs that do not a disability toilet (or lavatories that are accessible) – rails allow us to use the facilities independently.  Some even use it because it’s more “spacious” when they don’t really need to – never mind some people with disabilities find it hard to hold it.  Toilets generally “smell” because people prefer to use it when they have to do a No. 2 instead of the standard allocated cubicle.  Moreover, some non-disabled users have the audacity to be upset when you enter (because they don’t know how to lock it) or are surprised when they encounter you patiently waiting for them to finish. Having a child of my own, I understand when parents accompany their kids when family rooms are not present.  It’s people that feel they are more important than the rest and who shouldn’t be made to wait their turn that gets my goat.

Where I’m originally from (I’m not aware of the law now but I doubt, it’s changed), an elevator was only required if there were at least five floors (I’m told that’s why our school building was only built with four).  I can manage stairs if my hands can “reasonably” hold onto the rails (it just takes me awhile and some effort) – what about most?  Are they excluded from these?

Some ramps have a “steep” incline (assuming one is in a wheelchair being pushed) – what about those who choose to propel themselves or ambulate independently?  It can not be simply for compliance sake but the spirit of is just as important as the letter of the law.  It should be because of compassion not coercion by government or regulatory bodies.

I’m not a fan of people who take disabled parking spots (when they clearly don’t need it) for the sake of convenience or because it’s nearer to the entrance (I’ve even seen one parked perpendicular occupying two slots).  They don’t want to walk “that far” – screw (pardon my language) the patrons that can’t walk.  It’s this type of insensitivity that can lead to resentment.

This is by no means an exhaustive list but one informed by my own negative experiences. Some people are just ignorant or not sufficiently exposed to the “everyday” plight of persons living with disabilities.  Our purpose should not to shame or guilt (tempting as it is given the number of a**holes) but to educate the public.

I am not an activist, by nature, (I like to think of myself as more of an advocate) but I can understand why so many rail against the traditional view of the medical or deficit model of disability.  Where I’m from, many with impairments are not educated and are kept home-bound (to spare stigma to the rest of the family in the guise of providing comfort).  Not surprisingly, I am a supporter of the social model: after all, disability is a construct or consequence of a society.  This is more pronounced as we shift from being a highly industrialised to an information-based economy. While physically we may not be the ideal, there are other ways we can contribute  – accommodations are typical but how things are designed in the first place can maximise our value-adding potential.  Trite as it may sound but the focus should be on ability and not disability.  I wonder how Darwin would have documented this evolution of species.

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