Disability Grace Notes

And then some days you drive to the mall and the “handicap” accessible parking spots are not only plentiful but bountiful. And there is plenty of room on either side of the lines so you can safely unload two kids.

And when you enter the Apple store, the first available salesperson is visually impaired — has his eyes cast downward and is holding a long white stick — and you say, Can you help me? I need an iPad. And he asks, Will this be your iPad? And you tell him, No, it’s for my daughter. She’s right here in this stroller. She’s three and nonverbal and she’ll use it to speak. And at this point the salesman praises Apple products, uses that crucial word, roomy as a cathedral, Accessible, all while holding his iPhone to his ear and ringing you up.

And then, when you visit the fancy-pants natural beauty store to buy your hair gook, the woman behind the register asks, How old are your girls? And because there’s just enough earthiness and raw joy in her voice, just enough indication that she lives this life from her belly and heart as much as from her brain, you tell her the truth. You tell her the smaller one is two years older than the bigger one. And without skipping a beat, she talks not about size or difference or anything related to normal, but about the cost of daycare. When she notices that your smallest daughter — the oldest — has done something with her hands, she exclaims, delighted, Did she just sign!? And you tell her yes, that your daughter is nonverbal but has a few signs, and the saleswoman is ecstatic, again not skipping a beat, filled not with worry or pity over that word nonverbal, but joi de vivre over possibility and ability.

It was pouring outside when you parked the car in that wide, accessible spot. The salesperson wonders on this rainy day, What’s the sign for rain? And you confess that you don’t know. But you know this: the world is full of some very beautiful things, bountiful parking spots and accessible technology and enthusiastic salespeople to name only a few.

And even though the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990 and plenty of places (the local park included) still fail to comply, and even though able-bodied people are three times more likely to be employed than people with disabilities, and even though a friend of yours wrote yesterday to say that the private university for which she teaches, which is not bound by ADA, will now nix its shuttle service — the primary transportation option for students with mobility impairments — even though this and much much more, these moments of grace at the suburban shopping mall give you hope. As you drive home in a downpour, your kids napping in the back, you feel strangely and perhaps naively but still incredibly hopeful for the place this world might be eking toward becoming.

The Accessible Icon Project.

The Accessible Icon Project.

For more about the Accessible Icon Project, go here.


2 thoughts on “Disability Grace Notes

  1. I hope to live long enough to see the world you so loving describe. I have spent my entire adult life thinking about and advocating for disability rights. It has been and remains an uphill battle.

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