Lies We Believe About Ourselves and Others
Day 5: You’re Too Much Work
Do me a favor and think about the world you inhabit. How much of it is made for you? When you go to the movie theater, does the physicality of the space exclude you? Is it easy to travel in it? Can you hear the movie? See it? Can you arrive at the theater easily? Is it possible to book your tickets without existence? When you have to pee halfway through, can you find somewhere to go?
These are questions we had to ask ourselves, as student leaders on the college campus I attended. We had so many talks and forums on accessibility, it almost felt ridiculous. But I’ll never forget the time my grandma came to visit the worship service I served at. We added phrases into every request we made of the conversation: if you’re able.
Please stand for worship if you’re able.
As you’re able, greet someone next to you.
Bow your heads with us for prayer as you’re able.
It’s simple, really. It take a bit of practice and a bit of intentionalty but it’s overall, a simple way to make your space more accessible. Back to my grandma though. She asked me if we said stand if you’re able because she was there (it was a college campus after all, she was pretty far out of the age range). I told her no, we say that at every service so that if people can’t stand, or if they don’t want to, they know they’re still able to participate in the service. She looked at me and nodded, said it was interesting. Then she said something that changed the way I looked at accessibility – “You know, it did make me feel less guilty about sitting down.”
She sits at the church she goes to fairly often. And she feels guilty about it, perhaps consciously and perhaps not. By giving her permission to interact with the space as she wanted to, we helped alleviate some of that guilt.
We talk a lot these days about being offended, and I agree, it does seem overboard a vast majority of the time. But what if we spent more time asking why it would be problematic if people felt a little more comfortable, or at least a little less uncomfortable in the places we build in society. Is that really such a bad thing, to strive to make all humans included?
Let’s hang up a couple of “all gender” signs on single-stall restrooms. Let’s put captions on big screens in theaters. Let’s make sure blue buttons open doors automatically like they’re supposed to, and if they don’t let’s raise a little hell.
Do you feel like the world is falling apart? Like people can’t seem to agree or recognize the humanity in one another? Is it really all that surprising to you, honestly, that we fight on the internet with people on the opposite side of our aisle, when we journey through life ignorant of the ways our physical space is exclusionary? Building an empathetic world means we have to exit our own reality to enter the reality of someone else. It means that we have to wake ourselves up to the challenges we don’t recognize are problems.
Sleeping next to the crazy isn’t enough any more. We have to understand we sleep around it. We participate in it. And we have an opportunity to do something about it. It isn’t a justifiable excuse anymore to say someone’s too much work.
Building an inclusive world means all of us get to be here. It’s a radical notion – total acceptance. But it will save the world.
How do I implement accessibility?
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