OPINION: The need for improved accessibility


Bella Watson

“Our world is not built in a way that accommodates all needs.” Photo courtesy of Pexels.

A majority of the things I do in my day-to-day life require nearly no thought. My body turns on autopilot as I walk from one building to another across campus, enter through the front door and climb the stairs to get to my destination. I never thought of this as a luxury — just something that everyone’s body so graciously does.

My mindset had always been that way, until I watched the Crip Camp documentary. Crip Camp is a documentary produced by the Obamas and a team of videography professionals. The film follows a group of children and teenagers who attended a camp for the disabled in the 1970s. These adolescents began and led the revolution that started the discussion revolving around people with disabilities.

Crip Camp also highlighted the fact that until the 1970s there was no legislation that protected or advocated for the rights of people with disabilities. In fact, our own president, Richard Nixon, fought assiduously to prevent equality. He vetoed the The Rehabilitation Act twice before it was finally passed and signed in 1973. In 1975, the first ever advocacy group for people with disabilities was created, funded and run by people with disabilities.

While our society has made leaps since the 1970s, people with disabilities are still far from being treated equally. The vast majority of oppression faced by those with disabilities lie in the way that our world is structured. Our world is not built in a way that accommodates all needs, one of the most common examples being the way that schools and universities are assembled. Entrances are not created in a way that allows for wheelchair access, and when they are, they are labeled as a “special” or “wheelchair” entry.

Children with disabilities face some of the most severe oppression. From the time the child enters the education system, they are taught that their bodies are the issue, and that the school must go out of its way to accommodate them. This alienates the child and corroborates the idea that they are a burden.

There is still a long way to go before we are anywhere near making reparations for the way people with disabilities have been treated, but the first step is for able-bodied people to become educated. It is not the fault of every individual that our society has alienated those with disabilities, but it is our responsibility to begin the process of correcting these mistakes.