Monday, January 5, 2009

Access at Inauguration

I just read on Frida and on Feminsite that President-Elect Obama’s inauguration will be largely inaccessible to folks with limited mobility. Feministe’s Cara has analyzed the situation really well, so I’ll just encourage folks to go read her entry.

I still believe that Obama is indeed the change we need to see in Washington, but I stand by my October comments towards his policies even more. I think he wants to do the right thing and on the general areas of policy that most politicians are familiar with, I believe he will do the right thing. But disability advocacy - for instance – is a subject too many politicians are unaware of, and a subject we all need to educate his cabinet, advisors, etc about. Of course I’m also aware that Obama isn’t the specific person who decided “hey let’s shut down access” but he sets the tone for access.

I went onto the inauguration page to read about accessibility issues and found the phone numbers for Congressional Special Services Staff (isn’t that name condescending!). Perhaps one of the ways to voice disapproval is to call these numbers and let folks know that the “special services” they’ve provided simply aren’t enough:

202-224-4048 (voice)*

202-224-4049 (TTY)

I realize that educating is tiring and shouldn’t have to be done, but that’s all the more reason why folks who identify as anti-ableist allies (I try to be one) should make sure to call these numbers, too. In my professional capacity as “trans-for-pay” I have often heard/seen folks assume that only a transgender person can respond to anti-transgender actions. While clearly a transgender position carries a lot of weight in such a circumstance, assuming a trans-only policy undermines the work of all our allies and family members. Often I find that my friends are just as enraged as I am, and in some circumstances even more enraged. So while we may not know what it would be like to face limited mobility at the inauguration we can still ally ourselves to the fact that no one’s ability to attend the inauguration should be made any more difficult.

*The website referred to the non-TTY phone as “voice”…should I change that to “hearing”? What are non-TTY phones referred to as? I’ve never differentiated before. I did a few Google searches and didn’t find anything. I appreciate anyone who can let me know!


Go Go Jo Jo said...

Great post.

Its always interesting to me about major events such as these how easily people seem to forget the issues of accessibility.

I worked for the office in charge of disability issues at my college for two years. And like clockwork each year commencement would become a major shit storm because the organizers didn't think ahead of how to make sure the event was accessible. Due to traditions (we've been having the commencement in the same space for decades I believe) the school won't move to a more generally accessible location (which is understandable to a point) but it was hard to make people realize that meant that they would have to make *alternate* accommodations. It was every family members right to be able to see that event.

Its really to me a blight (amongst several that are starting to rear their head) on the inauguration and the start of PEO's presidency that this was so mishandled. Like you say its not his fault (its whoever is the planner for not contacting an accessibility expert to make sure everything was in order way in advance) but it doesn't make him look good. And with a lot of issues concerning marginalized people its not only about what kind of policy changes do you help usher in but also what do you practice.

I have serious anxiety around calling people so I'm going to see if there is another way to lodge my disapproval.

(also sorry for the essay)

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