Earlier this week, I received an email from a reader dissatisfied with the pace of progress towards a fully accessible world. I, too, am often frustrated by the barriers that restrict our community, and I dream of a more accessible future.
In contemplating our reality and how we can best take action, I often look to the past for inspiration.
I was born in 1989, a year before President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. That law became a reality because the disabled people of that era engaged in an incredible battle to raise awareness about inaccessibility and the multitude of barriers to equal participation in society.
By courageously facing down obstacles that were meant to exclude them from society, disabled people earned the right to design the much more accessible world that we enjoy today. Their efforts ensured that a newborn baby boy, who would unexpectedly come to use a wheelchair more than 20 years later, would be able to make a life for himself in a new, more accessible world.
Those activists earned an incredible victory, not only for themselves but for people like you and me. But, as we know, the battle for accessibility and inclusion is far from over.
We too have an opportunity to become the authors of an accessible future — one that we will enjoy, perhaps only briefly, but which will become the baseline — the expectation — for the generation that will follow.
This is true not only in the realm of accessible design, but in every aspect of human development and innovation.
In reflecting on the nature of our current existence, I take hope in knowing that our present-day struggles with inaccessibility will inform the work that we ourselves do to create a world that is more habitable for us all. The struggles we face today are the necessary deposit on the accessibility that is to come.
Let us face our generation’s barriers with the same grit and determination of the disabled people, advocates and activists who came before us.
P.S. If you’d like to learn more about one generation’s inspiring battle for equal access, check out the movie Crip Camp, which Netflix has made available to stream for free on YouTube in the United States.