Friday, October 7, 2011

What's the difference?

People's perceptions and prejudices have no nationality. One question that you may have when reading my blog is if things in America get so bad and I get so offended when people offer me money or food thinking I'm homeless, how is it different from my life in Poland. I never claimed to have found paradise in the States. And  I have no control over what strangers on the street think of me, nor should I care. But regardless of how I'm perceived  by those whose opinion shouldn't matter I know that I don't have to worry about being able to get in and out of a building, finding wheelchair accessible restroom, stress what happens when I get to a theater, a store, a cinema, bar or opera. I know that if a bus goes somewhere I need to go, I will get there. And I can expect ramps, lifts and all the usual equipment. Things in America are standardized and you learn to expect them. That's the benefit of the ADA and its Florida counterpart that  is somewhat stricter. Some things are just required and nobody's doing me any favors. Most of the time, unless say a business was grandfathered in meaning it preexisted the legislation, those things will just be there. No excuses, no explaining that it's hard or it's not practical or that people in wheelchairs never go somewhere- it's the law. In Florida, you're even required to usually have ramps if you enact a stage and businesses can get in trouble with code enforcement if they do not. Doesn't matter that I'm not a performer. Buses have ramps- in Europe I would hear that there's simply no money to accommodate people in wheelchairs. In Gainesville even the old ones were remodeled to be ADA compliant. In Warsaw I was lucky to get a modern bus and even when I did the bus driver wouldn't get the ramp out and assist me. Here they are required to do so.  Taking those decisions out of the sphere of discretion  of of the owner or operator gives me a peace of mind. We all have things to do in our day without worrying how you're going to get there. It also increases your self confidence knowing that you can do things for yourself. People are the same everywhere you go, system solutions are not. Because I can alter my own reality if I'm given the right tools. If I can go places and function I can be productive, I can be useful. And I wish Poland gave me that opportunity, but it didn't, so I had to find it elsewhere. That's the difference.

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