How Far Have we Really Come?

I?m often asked about the progress of accessibility in interviews — you know the old “how far have we come” question. I have to admit I have a rather canned response to it — “canned” meaning that it?s pretty much the same thing every time, not that?s it insincere. It?s just that I?ve been asked that same question over and over; and to be honest I pretty much craft my response from my same (unchanging) perspective.

Until today that is, when I read the account of a friend?s Chicago trip. Let?s just call him John. John loves the theater and recently he jumped at the chance to take his family to Chicago to see Wicked and Rent. Seems simple enough, right? Well, John is also a para, and although he?s usually very active, he?s been laid up for the past year with pressure sore issues. Suffice it to say he was more than ready to get out of Dodge!

So he did. And he did it quickly! In fact, he didn?t even bother to book an accessible room or really make any inquires about access at all. Why? Because he just wanted the best down-and-dirty-book-it-on-the-internet-now hotel deal. So basically it was point, click and pack. And off to Chicago he went.

Now granted he encountered some obstacles, but he didn?t go into it blind. And for the most part he was able to make do. For example, he didn?t have an accessible hotel room (after all he didn?t book one); however I?m told that the bathroom at McDonalds worked just fine. In the end, he was able to get around the city on public transpiration, get to the theater, eat, drink and be merry and generally have a good time. All without any advance planning.

Now granted John?s way of travel isn?t for everybody — and to be honest it?s not even what John usually does — however the fact that he even was able to do it (albeit with some difficulty) is a testament to our improved accessibility. For a long time I?ve looked at accessibility from the top down; but John made me look at it from another perspective — from the bottom up.

So next time I?m asked the “how far have we come” question I?ll be able to answer it from a fresh perspective. After all, I don?t think John could have had his on-the-fly theater weekend in Chicago 30 years ago.

And in my book, that?s real progress.