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David Robinson @dgrobinson
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I’m feeling grateful this morning (thread).
Near my new place in Ithaca, there’s a charming little cafe that does amazing breakfast and coffee. (I’m glad to have them nearby.)
This morning, I had a couple of dear friends staying with me, and they were busy generously hanging up my pictures. (I’m glad to have _them_ nearby, too.)
So I went out to grab breakfast for the three of us.
If you had seen me walking to the cafe, I might’ve looked just like anyone else to you, or you might’ve noticed a slight limp.
I have mild cerebral palsy. Sometimes, I wobble a little when I walk. For most things it’s no problem: Walking to work or around campus, carrying a bag of groceries. Several of my past apartments have been third story walk-ups. NBD.
But this morning: three coffees and a bag full of sandwiches? Coffees are tricky. They’re in one of those little carrier trays. Hot and full and spill-able. And it takes both hands to carry the tray.
People who spend a lot of time on the water sometimes say, “one hand for you, one for the boat.” I’m like that on land. Both hands doing coffee means no catching myself. No mistakes. I’m probably still fine, but we’re starting to get into the not-relaxed, hope-this-works zone.
Order’s ready! Lids on to the coffee. Bag full of egg sandwiches hanging off my right hand, both hands under the tray. We have liftoff from the counter, all systems go.
Out to the front door of the cafe, and it’s…. Closed. With a door handle. Which means it’s time for a maneuver. Normally it might be, all the coffee into one hand and hope for the best while I open the door with the other? But this door has an accessible handle.
So I'm able to keep both hands on the tray, back into the door and kinda shimmy down it a little, and turn the handle with my elbow. Open! And out we go, down the gentle ramp to the sidewalk.
Arriving home, there’s another flight of steps. Steps plus coffee tray add up to a magical moment of terror, where one foot is lifted -- and I'm holding three full coffees and the sandwiches, propelling myself toward the next step in, one hopes, a controlled fashion. Not ideal.
But: here again, there's also an ADA-compliant ramp. So, no worries, gently up the ramp I go. I arrive back in my apartment with all three coffees full, no spills.
And I’m relaxed and calm. Not keyed up on the adrenaline of having almost lost the coffee, the way I would’ve been after even a best-case journey up the stairs.
There was dignity and satisfaction in being able to do that. In being the one to bring the coffee. In being able to do it and remain relaxed and present with the people around me.
Even though I don’t read as “disabled” all the time — and even though I would’ve had maybe an 85% chance of success in a less accessible world — those accessible door handles and ramps made a profound difference for me today.
And, those accessible touches didn’t come easy. They are there because people worked hard to put them there, to make them mandatory. I remember when these long door handles started becoming more common.
At first, I looked at them and thought, gosh, that’s not very nice looking. Because, I associated them subconsciously with hospitals and nursing homes, where they’ve long been common. Now, they just look like door handles.
(Here you might be wondering, wait, what might it be like to feel differently about hospitals and nursing homes, the sickness and loss and also the caring and healing -- to open to all of that with tenderness rather than aversion? Good question. I'm wondering the same thing.)
I’ve also heard folks complain about the added cost, and space, that the ramps take up. And yes, if a ramp-less world works for you and for everyone whose needs you often think about, then sure, it might feel like an inefficient use of space.
But here’s the thing: those door handles, and ramps, and kneeling curbs, are there for everyone. We all experience a range of abilities and limits throughout life.
You can be encumbered by a sports injury, or by arthritis, or because you’re carrying the large format canvass you just painted to an art show, or a string bass to a concert, or a tiny proto-human inside your body.
So, today, I’m feeling grateful to everyone who makes our world more accessible. People with disabilities whose painful encounters with a less accessible world helped to spark change. The activists and litigators and lobbyists. The designers and architects and entrepreneurs.
And every person who now looks at an accessible door handle or a kneeling curb and just sees a door handle, or a curb. You're making life better. Thank you.

PS I meant to add one other thing. No matter what your capacities are, accessible design makes more of life, more possibilities, accessible for you. And for everyone around.
More people know they can move it around and think, “yes, I'll do a large format painting,” or “yes, a I'll take up the bass” or whatever, and we all get more paintings and concerts and calmer, happier, more self-sufficient and dignified neighbors and friends.
Each of us already gains, already has reason to be grateful for these things.

That's how it seems to me.
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