I wrote this after attending an Oakland Athletics game. The game is another story. My three friends had physical challenges. I was the only one who walked through life totally unaware of how inaccessible much of the world is. So I share this now with the hope I will never forget and will always view public spaces through the lens of inclusivity.
The ballgame outing last night was fun, but it was also a lesson for me in “access.”
I picked up Helen, who lives around the corner, and drove to Maria’s house. Helen is a young woman with a fine mind in a challenged body. I had to maneuver my car in right next to the curb to allow her access. She does well with her crutches, but her up and down mobility is extremely limited. Her gait is awkward so she has to endure stares constantly.
At the stadium we parked in a handicap zone. (I was the only one of four with no challenges. Maria has a hip problem and uses a cane. Alice had just broken a toe.) The parking spot was the equivalent of about three blocks from the handicap entrance.
When we got there, we were funneled through a turnstile. Helen couldn’t hold her balance on the
crutches and, at the same time, push through the narrow stile so the ticket taker opened a wider door for her.
Our tickets were for the third deck. When we got off the elevator at Level 3, we discovered, after another walk, that we needed to get off at 4. So back we went to the elevator.
This time we had a roughly two-block walk to the section, where we discovered our seats were totally inaccessible to Helen. They were on the 8th row, up impossibly steep steps. We took some empty seats on the second row but had to give them up when the teenaged ticketholders arrived.
A Guest Services employee found us first-row seats three sections away. This time when the ticketholders arrived, a family with two small children, they sized up our situation and graciously found seats elsewhere.
I came home reminded that I have not always been sensitive to the needs of those with physical challenges, nor always sympathetic toward the high cost of retrofitting buildings and neighborhoods to accommodate a small number of disabled workers or residents.
Seeing the evening through Helen’s eyes, I could see how much of the world is off limits to people who are marginalized because their bodies cannot maneuver a world built for those whose bodies we define as normal.