Tuesday, April 28, 2015

An elevator with stairs and Prime Minister in a wheelchair

Here's something you don't here every day. The Czech Prime Minister decided to experience first hand what it's like to have a disability so he spent a day in a wheelchair. And he thought it was hard. The odd thing is that some of the things he got to do was using a specialized lift and transferring in and out of a car. If he felt that was hard I wonder how he'd manage rolling down the historic streets of Prague, navigating cobble stone or figuring out where the ramp is. No word on whether he got to do it or not. Older parts of Europe are notorious for not being very wheelchair friendly and for a good reason. Nobody's gonna demolish a construction that is often few hundreds years old just so it's easier for people with mobility issues. I have to say, he may not have gotten the "full immersion" experience, but I applaud him for trying. That part of Europe doesn't really have good rep for focusing on disability inclusion to begin with. The issue is typically presented as a "social problem" that the government needs to either throw the money at or develop some employment enabling program to lower unemployment rates. The news stories I read from the former Eastern Bloc often involve somebody stuck in an apartment without elevators, without money or care or other means of support. It's good to see a disability headline that doesn't talk of a conference, statistics, talking heads debating what policies to employ. A positive disability story that focuses on empathy. On understanding what it must be like. American Universities have classes where they tell students to get in a wheelchair, ride around all day and write a paper about it. But this is a politician. And from a part of a world that historically was part of a system lasting decades, that never made individuals with  disabilities a priority. So that's impressive. Of course I'd think they take him places where it would be  easier for him, so he wouldn't struggle too much as that just wouldn't look good. And let's be honest:  Having to use accommodations and devices is not what makes being in a wheelchair "hard". It's the lack of these solutions when you need them. Elsewhere in Central Europe University of Wroclaw, Poland. made disability themed headlines on the same day.  It's working on it's new, elegant, see through elevator. But in a twist that may seem like a poorly photoshopped  meme, leading straight up to the door are the equally elegant steps. In the world of disabilities some things change, others don't. When we get a human being to stop and think, do something different, extraordinary things may happen. But for most, it's business as usual, sticking to regulations, going by the book with the absolute minimum of what's required of them, even if the end result defies logic. And when you think about the long list of people that had to sign off on something like an elevator with stairs on no red flags going off at any level you have to conclude that we as a human race must be in trouble indeed.

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