Left Turns & Other Obstacles

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Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain

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Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain

I'm ashamed to say I was completely out of the loop on this.

An issue was facing the disability community that was so urgent and in need of change that a group of people took it upon themselves to organize and fix it with a successful grass roots activism campaign, and I missed it all.

With a crowd of onlookers present in the appropriate numbers to signify and memorialize the importance of the event, a government official said all the right things and the local bobble heads oohhed and aaaahhed in anticipation as they waited for the unveiling of.. wait for it..

ta da!!! a new handicapped parking sign..

Great huh?

I guess that depends on who you are. If you are part of the group promoting it, and you see it on the news, then you probably think it's great. If you're me.. well.. not so much.

The argument went something like this: an able bodied person thought.. that symbol doesn't represent disabled people to me. In my opinion, that symbol makes people think disabled people are helpless.

Another person, also NOT disabled, (but ok because they are an artist) added the needed weight and verified that yes indeed, the sign DID make her think it looked like it had "machine arms".

Since it affected her so much, and those perceptions are somehow tied into why people with disabilities in NY (and pretty much anywhere else) can't:

  • hail an accessible cab - funnily enough since they put a sticker on one when the mayor of NYC just shot down accessible cab requirements.. irony on irony huh?
  • be certain they can access government / red cross / FEMA provided shelter in an emergency
  • earn a living wage
  • subsist on "allowed" income
  • find safe accessible housing
The only sensible thing to do was: change the handicapped icon using stealth methods, oohh.. so daring..

One of the artists, Brian Kenney, refers to the spray painting of the symbol as "creative and constructive and helps other people".

If that's really the case, then I'm on board. I'm all for helping people and I'd like to get started right away so if anyone could answer:

  1. how it's constructive; and
  2. how it helps other people
I'd appreciate it.

And if those questions can't be answered, let's flip it:

  1. How does the international symbol for access hurt people?
  2. And what people are hurt? Specifically..

It's being promoted as some sort of societal perception change movement and I want to like it but I don't, for a bunch of reasons besides the cutesy frivolous, frankly insulting, non-issue nature of it.

We're in the middle of a financial crisis and many many many many disabled people barely have enough to survive, never mind have a car to drive to one of those spots. Using limited public money for something as ridiculous as this, in a time like this, is unnecessary.

The entire premise is demeaning and belittling because it puts so much weight on the value of something that doesn't merit it especially when other things are needed. Is the town completely ADA compliant? Title II AND Title III? Yes I'm fully aware Title III is for public accommodations - meaning businesses, but if a business isn't accessible what good is a sign?

Make structural changes and those perceptions will change right along with them because then instead of a sign showing how forward and active we are, our money in their cash registers does it and in a far better way for everyone.

The implication or inference that a handicapped symbol in any way affects my perception of myself is ridiculous, insulting and patronizing. It presumes that I'm defined by outside forces and that I'm not strong enough intellectually (read too stupid) to discern between map symbols and a personal slight. And it further presumes to think that a map symbol has enough weight in my world to affect my self esteem. In case you're wondering? It doesn't, because it's a directional sign, not an instruction.

What do you think? Are you for or against the icon / sign? Why? Do you have other suggestions?

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