Ever since I started doing accessibility reviews I have become very aware of how inaccessible the most livable city in the world is for some people with disabilities. Everywhere that I go I am always looking out to see if the place is accessible and I must say I find myself getting disappointed many of the times. Now I understand why I hardly ever see any PWDs on the streets.
Everywhere that I go I am always accessing how accessible the place is. I am looking out for wheelchair ramps, disabled toilets, constantly accessing how clean the toilets are, what the seating area is like in restaurants, ease to get into the building, is there an elevator and how far is it from the entrance…etc. So far I have been using four categories proximity to public transport, entrance, toilets and seating area. Whilst I have been proud of this, it is incredibly flawed and screams privilege. Privilege because I have been assessing places that I visit based on my needs and thereby recommending restaurants but forgetting that this excludes many many people with disabilities.
When I read the story of Annalicia a visually impaired teenage from Grove City Ohio, I realized that the way I view accessibility is flawed. I first came across her story via her sister’s tweet which left me challenged a lot. After reading the story explaining that Annalicia always has the same meal when they eat out because no-one offers her a menu my heart broke. I tried to put myself in her shoes and I just couldn’t imagine how horrible the experience of having the same meal each time you go out is because the restaurant does not have a menu in braille.
The way I have been viewing accessibility is flawed because of my ability to see. Being able to see and read is a privilege I had taken for granted and I made assessments and recommendations based on my own needs neglecting the needs of other people with disabilities such as those who are visually impaired or cannot see at all. I was incredibly challenged by this story. It also made me sad to realise that this great city of Melbourne that I love so much is not entirely accessible to every person with a disability.
My take home message after reading Annalicia’s message is to always think outside of the box when it comes to accessibility. Just because my needs are met does not mean a place is accessible, as long as it excludes other disabilities then it is not accessible at all.