Monday, September 7, 2009

Say What?

Sometimes, people just don't think...

I look at the photo above, and I have to laugh... and I ask myself, what exactly was the person thinking when they posted that sign? Did they see the irony, or did they just complete their assigned task, and move on?

It could be a photoshop fake, of course, except that I have seen many such examples of "selective blind spots" to just pass it off without a closer look. And yes, I do realize that able-bodied persons often accompany friends who are in wheelchairs to stadium events, such as ball games. Perhaps the sign was meant for them, and I'm just reading my own bias into it?


Then again, perhaps not. I have, in the past, called ahead to find out if a certain store or restaurant might pose some kind of barrier to my use of it, and was told in no uncertain terms that the building was "fully handicapped accessible." Sometimes the voice on the other end of the phone was right... but seemingly more often than not, they were wrong. Either there was a small (to them) step blocking the only entrance, or the racks and displays were too close together, or the sole public restroom just happened to be upstairs. Neither of us ended that day happily. Me, from having wasted a trip for nothing, and they from missing out on a potential sale.

Now, in all fairness I realize that no single person can be expected to know enough about every type of disability out there to answer the question of access with 100% accuracy. My diatribe today is not about that. Rather, I'm speaking today of what I earlier described as "selective blind spots" -- or put another way, just not seeing something as a barrier because it's never been a barrier to you.

Allow me to digress just for a moment and share an example of "blind spots" not related to disability. Once many years ago our area was hit by a severe winter storm. It passed rather quickly, dumping over a foot of snow, and bringing down the entire power grid to over half of the city. The damage was pretty bad; we had no power (and thus no heat) for almost a week.

One by one friends and family called in to check up on us. Yes we were fine, thank goodness, but of course we had no lights or heat. "I can loan you an electric blanket" one helpful relative offered. Another offered an electric space heater. Except for nearly freezing to death, it was pretty funny at the time.

The point is, none of these people were stupid, by any means. All were anxious to help. They just couldn't help falling into the blind spot that often develops when we become used (dependent) on things being a certain way. Often, it takes something like a snow storm (metaphorically speaking) to shake them out of this world view so they can see reality in a whole new way.

This is the purpose of educating people about disability issues. This is why I write this blog. If you come upon someone with a blind spot that impacts your disability, don't criticize them. Instead, enlighten them. Do it with humor, and gentleness. Remember too, that what may seem to painfully obvious to us may not be so obvious to them.

Meanwhile, keep a spare electric blanket handy, just in case. :)


  1. Wonderful thoughts, Larry.
    Important for me to grok. I can be pretty impatient sometimes, and that doesn't teach anyone anythimg, except that I'm a grouch on wheels.

  2. That's quite the picture. I wonder how many people notice and laugh.

  3. LOL Diana... a grouch on wheels. I can relate. Sometimes I just get frustrated and vent my thoughts out loud... which teaches nobody anything useful. Oh well, we all have grouchy days. Guess the best we can do is start over the next morning and try to be more positive. Thanks for being such a loyal and good friend, and a reader too. :)

  4. Hello Alison!

    Thank you for visiting my blog, and for commenting. Yeah, I wonder how long that sign has been there, with nobody noticing? Makes you curious, doesn't it? :)

    By the way, I followed you back to your own blog. Very nice! Keep up the good work!