Accessibility in the Able-Bodied World Series Day 1

Photo Description: Ferdie, a black Labrador, stares directly into the camera. Directly behind him to the picture left is Kody, a Yellow Labrador, come into the frame. Both dogs are sitting on a hard wood floor living room. 

Photo Description: Ferdie, a black Labrador, stares directly into the camera. Directly behind him to the picture left is Kody, a Yellow Labrador, come into the frame. Both dogs are sitting on a hard wood floor living room. 

Editor's note: This series was first published on Sassy's facebook. 

House-hunting or rental hunting when you can't see pictures, see to fill out paperwork, or see to drive to locations... and don't even get me going on finding accessible housing. It! Sucks! The whole process is massively inaccessible. I could devote an entire post to how it is inaccessible and things we could be doing better.

Body is not feeling well. This makes the errands I need to run, the things I need to do, all the more daunting. Yes, that's inaccessible. It means I have to ration my energy so carefully. I have to plan my day perfectly to allocate my energy and know I'll have enough, and I still hit a wall partway through, and that is an accessibility challenge because sometimes, it's easier to do things online to save energy. Then you get into the social aspect of disability. If we do everything online, what induces us out into the community, or induces the community to reach out to us... and for older adults with new disabilities, that's where isolation, depression and loneliness can begin.

I'm not there. I know how to get out and obtain social engagement and when it is a good use of my energy to do that, and when I just don't have it in me to do that. Met a friend for dinner. Another friend invited me to a party. I couldn't. I didn't have it in me. I couldn't go.

But dinner was wonderful. I finally got food in. But he read the menu to me. I could have pulled out my phone and found it online. I could have pulled out my phone, taken a picture of it and read it myself. Why didn't I do that?

Because I know those options are available to me. I know that menu is accessible. I've used it independently before. But in a crowded restaurant, hungry and wanting to talk and catch up with a friend, not fuss with my phone and try to listen to technology... and with no braille menu... it was just easier to ask. I weighed all my options and picked the one that was the best use of my time in that moment. Is there a right answer to this? ONlY that I had options to access that menu if i wanted to.

I took a Lyft to meet my friend for dinner after the redline had a delay for a medical emergency. In the lyft, I was joined by a panicked woman with her foot in a cast. She had been delayed on the subway, and had a show to do, and was worried about getting there on time, and could we please put her first in the order, and this cast had been on for five weeks and she had to wear it for five more, it was really messing up her game... she couldn't deal. She was so stressed. Disability onset. Short-term, long-term, doesn't matter. For once I sat back and smiled a little. I didn't feel patronizing or smug... but I knew some of the emotions she was going through far better than she knew. "I'm totally blind and a brain tumor survivor. If you want a piece of advice as to how to get through the next five weeks... take a deep breath and adapt... roll with it. You can either spend all your energy stressing about how bad things are, or you can start somewhere and do your best to deal with the situation and work with it. I"m sorry you're going through this, but that's step one of disability adjustment. Do what you can with what you have when you are ready to let the stress go and let adaptation in. It's really hard for those two things to co-exist." Whether she accepts my advice is up to her. She will or she won't, but sometimes accessibility is being taught, sometimes it's teaching. None of us has accessibility completely figured out, but what we do know, some may want to hear, and some may want to not hear. That's her choice, because I believe in adjustment with autonomy.

Autonomy isn't something that is easy to find while shopping, unless you plan ahead. I didn't. I needed a few things from Target. I asked my friend for help. Again. It was easier, I was exhausted, and it wouldn't take me long... but it took longer than I thought because we couldn't find the thing I was looking for. They had it online when I looked earlier today, just not in-store... I should have just ordered it online... but i got seduced by wanting something "right now!" That's a hard thing sometimes when you're disabled. Online shopping makes things much esier when the website is accessible. Target's website is great. So that was not a problem at all. It wasn't always accessible, they had a lawsuit brought against them by the NFB, but Target's response was to go way above and beyond, and now they're doing some industry-leading things in shopping accessibly.

But in-store... everything has print on it. Everything has price tags. Every aisle has print I can't see. From navigating through the store to finding the type of product I want, it can be maddening. Sure, in the grocery store, I can show off by telling my dog: "Find the blueberries." Or: "Apples!" And he goes to them. But I don't think: "Find the cell phone case!" Or: "Find the blankets!" Is really something I can teach him because they don't have a particular smell, and I don't go over to those things enough to make it worth it.

At home, I found out spring ants had snuck in and invaded my kitchen and trash. I would not have seen them. Eyes found them for me, and helped me get rid of them and figure out that they were sneaking in through the balcony door out of the cold in pursuit of the sugary drink bottles in the recycle bin. WE think. All ants have been banished and will be dealt with mercilessly. Buggers. Inaccessible little invasive sneaky rude buggers. Out!

Then, getting ready for bed, i opened a new bottle of deodorant... I had to touch the holes on the top to find out when the liquid was turned up enough to start coming out... and I got way too much the first time... inaccessible deodorant. Yep, that's my life. The stuff you use eyes for that you don't even think about using eyes for.

There were other things. Emailing people about how to work with my neurological disabilities because the way things were going in a particular situation was causing cognitive problems for me. Or scanning the mail and spending ten minutes trying to decipher two tables to make sure I wasn't overcharged for something. Explaining to my hospital that sending me out a print survey with no link on it to an online survey was not accessible.

No, it never stops. Yes, it is that complex. WE don't think about vision loss as the thing that needs lots of accommodating, because it's not as obvious as a mobility disability sometimes. It's quiet, intrusive stuff that you wouldn't think about until you take sight out of the equation. And neurological disabilities, I'm learning, as I cope with a new one, are worse in many ways, because you don't know something is inaccessible until you can't do it... cognitively. That hurts.

But the menu was accessible. The ants were annihilated. The paperwork got done. Work in progress. #A11YReality

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Sassy Outwater is the co-owner of BlindChick Accessibility Consulting and Runs Acsexyble. BlindChick and Acsexyble are devoted to issues of accessibility and advocacy for women and gender non-conforming people with disabilities. Follow Sassy on facebook here

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