In its simplest form, accessibility is usually defined as changes to the built environment designed to enable full participation by and inclusion of disabled people . Ramps and grab bars are common examples, with accessibility also extending to the presentation of materials in multiple formats to meet varying needs. Braille and sign language, for example, are provided for blind and vision-impaired people as well as D/deaf and hard of hearing people respectively. Likewise, accessibility can include modification of materials and curricula to accommodate disabled students, the provision of quiet rooms at conferences for autistic attendees, and other measures intended to make the environment more pleasant and functional for people with cognitive, intellectual, and developmental impairments.
These are measures that I term “physical access” both in my work and for the purpose of this essay. They are all intended to create more welcoming environments, and in some cases are required by law; the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the United States, for example, has stringent requirements for new public construction mandating features like ramps and accessible bathrooms in order to ensure equal access for disabled people. Yet, over 20 years after the passage of the ADA, compliance rates are still extremely low.
The fact that a law had to be passed in the first place is an illustration of ableism and how it functions in society: that people don’t think disabled people should automatically have access to all the same public spaces nondisabled people do is striking. And the surprise at the amount of agitation from disability activists on the subject is notable as well, with mainstream society behaving as though this is something new. The disability rights movement has been active for over 100 years, lobbying for the rights of disabled factory workers in the Industrial Revolution, returning soldiers in the First and Second World Wars, and more. Disabled organizers participated in the upsurge of civil disobedience and protests during the Civil Rights Movement, and fought hard for the passage of the ADA and similar legislation as well as court verdicts like Olmstead versus L.C. . Their fight has always been one for full access and inclusion.
Continue reading “Accessibility in Utopia” »
People get very passionate about food. This is understandable, because when it’s good it can provide valuable nutrients to our body as well as cherished pleasure to our palates. But passion can become zeal and, before you know it, people are telling others how to eat. They are often well-meaning, when they evangelise about how easy it is to cut out gluten or become vegan, or how evil supermarkets or plastic packaging are, but they do not take into account the reality of many people’s lives.
The line between food enthusiasts and food snobs can be a thin one, and when, “It’s easier!”, “It’s cheaper!”, etc. drown out your insistence that the intersecting oppressions of disability, poverty, racism and fat-phobia play a part, then that line has been crossed.
I was vegetarian for many years and I have to admit that I was obnoxious about it when I was a young teen. I would gleefully point out that anyone with meat on their plate was “eating a dead animal” and, although I was half-joking, I’m sure it made me a thoroughly unpleasant person to eat with. Thankfully I grew out of that particularly objectionable habit long before adulthood, but many adults continue to judge others on what they eat as if it was a simple choice between good and bad with no other context.
Continue reading “March of the Food Snobs” »
The Gulf oil spill that has been capturing the news cycle in the United States for the last few months finally appears to be under control, and now we’re faced with a common problem: We have a whole lot of waste from the spill and associated cleanup, and it needs to go somewhere. This includes crude oil, equipment used by cleanup crews, soiled booms, and all kinds of other spill-associated detritus.
According to a story published at Colorlines last week, nine landfills in the Gulf region have been selected as sites for disposing of waste. Waste management authorities claim the material isn’t toxic, which means that regular municipal landfills, rather than landfills specifically designed to handle hazardous waste, are being used. Of the nine landfills chosen, five are located in low income communities of colour.
Continue reading “Crude Violations: BP Is Dumping Toxic Waste In Low Income Communities of Colour” »