Five Ways to Make Your World Accessible
I grew up in North Carolina, where every road is long, every hill is steep, and nearly every house has stairs.
The church I grew up in had two levels, both accessible as long as you rounded the property outside. My elementary and middle schools were the same.
And there are ramps, automatic doors, sometimes elevators with buttons you can reach.
“Accommodations do exist, and are helpful, but what I find most effective is when my aim to achieve accessibility happens from the inside out.”
The following are five interpersonal ways to make your world more accessible
Having friends and family around you is paramount. A devoted care team to support you, whether two people or twenty, will afford you more freedom to live life without the stress of figuring it out on your own. Suddenly, there’s no need to ask whether there’s an automatic door or if the bus system is up to snuff. You don’t have to order food based solely on whether it needs to be cut up or worry if the handicap row in the movie theater will be available. The possibilities are endless when people work together.
I have a handful of guys who take turns coming to get me up in the morning. They are all volunteers, which is awesome, but they can do that because they have other jobs, so to enjoy their help, I need to be flexible with their schedules. Some arrive at 6:30 to get me up before work, others come at 9:30 because they worked late the night before. When making plans for my day, I keep it loose and fluid, free to fluctuate my own life according to the lives of those around me.
Another aspect to flexibility is ingenuity, looking at an evolving situation and finding ways to change with it. One of my favourite memories with this is when my friends and I used to have a weekly potluck together. It always happened at a different person’s house, so I never knew what I would find by way of accessibility. But my friends and I assessed and worked it out. Sometimes that meant building ramps, sometimes it meant them carrying me in without my wheelchair, but it was always creative, fun, and successful.
Something I’ve learned and ended up loving is my need to simplify life. Over the years, I’ve become a bit of a minimalist because that means less for me (and thus my care team) to keep track of, physically and mentally, leaving room for what matters most. All my clothes, for example, match (and I don’t have a lot of them), so that whoever’s getting me up in the morning can just grab whatever from the closet. I already have enough legitimate needs to address, why add unnecessary details to the pile? It’s amazing to see how accessible the world becomes when you’re less demanding of it.
Returning to community, it’s not just about your care team, but about your care for them as well. Relationships grow when both parties pour into it. While you have needs, so does everyone else around you, whether obvious or not. This is your chance to give back, and your care for others may build your community, both in numbers and depth, and thus as you work together, the world becomes more accessible for everyone involved.
“Accessibility, in the end, comes from folks putting others first and working together to find creative solutions. This involves thoughtfulness and sacrifice on both sides of the conversation. But the result is beautiful: a world physically more accessible, but also more loving.”