While reading the settlement agreement in Tucker v. CA State parks, I stumbled across an interesting tid-bit. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this case, it’s a fairly significant class action lawsuit addressing accessibility in CA state parks. All in all the settlement agreement means improved access to outdoor recreation areas throughout the Golden State, with a number of specific access upgrades slated for 2009-2016.
That’s the fairly straightforward part of the settlement agreement.
But the part of the document that really caught my eye was the section that detailed the new reservation procedure for accessible campsites and cabins. According to the terms of the settlement agreement, in order to reserve an accessible campsite or cabin, you must show proof of disability. In this case, the accepted proof of disability is a parking placard or a disabled license plate. Furthermore, the person to whom the placard or license plate is issued must be present. This applies to advance reservations only. After 5:00 P.M., all unreserved accessible campsites and cabins are released and are available to everyone on a first-come basis.
I understand the reasoning behind this new policy, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s really such a good idea. I know there’s a need for some type of policing in order to make sure the limited number of accessible facilities are available to the folks who really need them; however I hate the idea of requiring documentation in order to participate in a leisure activity. What if you don’t drive? What then? By the same token, just because you have a placard doesn’t mean you need an accessible campsite or cabin. So I don’t really think it’s a fair standard.
In a perfect society, self-declaring that you are disabled should be sufficient; but we don’t live in a perfect society. Personally I don’t see the big coup in scoring a cabin with a roll-in shower or a raised toilet, if you don’t even need those adaptations. But there are a lot of ignorant people out there who really get off on getting what they perceive as “extras”, and then bragging about their great accomplishments (they call them deals) to all of their friends. It’s those folks who ruin it for everybody.
Still I can’t help but think this new policy is really a step backwards. It’s a very slippery slope. Think about it. Can we be that far off from requiring medical documentation just to book an accessible hotel room? What if you don’t have a doctor? I know many wheelchair-users who don’t even have (or need) a regular physician. Why should you have to pay for an office visit just to go on vacation?
After all, there is no specific documentation required for service animals, so why should humans be held to a higher standard?
No, I don’t have a solution, (other than building more accessible facilities), but I just don’t think this new policy is a really good idea. It just has too much of Big Brother written all over it.