I AM More Important Than Your History

Random thoughts as I woke up this morning, and began my daily motions crept into my head. I have been thinking about the acecssibility of my city, or the lack there of. The excuse I am given in new buildings is that the sticker on the door should be enough. Some places obviously tried and usually it shows in grand ways. Other places give the excuse that to put a ramp in, or wide enough doors would be destroying the historical importance of the building that their business sits in. I am more important than the history of the world. All people are.

I know that this makes me appear to hate history, yet this is the opposite of truth. My first passion in life was history and I have always loved taking part in reenactments. I am for preservation but not when the preservation includes the history of excluding others based on arbitrary things such as skin color or ability. I suspect that the place I live is far from the only one guilty of such crimes, yet I look at the excuses and they no longer work.

The first time I approached a historical building and there was no ramp, the excuse worked, because then I did not know my rights under the Americans with Disabilities act. The second time I was told this, the excuse did not work but I had no power. Since then I have regularly avoided the section of town that is considered somehow worthy of preservation. Even going along the side walks outside is difficult as the inclines on the “accessible” places are so steep my power chair cannot make it, and coming down the other side of these inclines would likely be an act of suicide. Old Town is lovely, and often has events that are free and meant to gather the entire community. These events only count if you are willing to burn out your chair engine, sink into grass, or sit on the only part of the side walk that you can get to that is safe. The excuse is history.

None of these buildings retains their original purpose. They are all shops selling the same tourist crap. There are a few restaurants but they too are selling the tourist crap. People claim native ancestry and sit out on the side walks, because this is apparently historical too and barricade the way. I have had people get angry at me for asking them to move so I can go past. Then there is the staring. For some reason people react more strongly to my presence in this section of town. The idea that a disabled person may be near these expensive shops, may want to see some old time gun battling, or in general may want to be on the side walk that has curb cuts at BOTH ends (an extreme rarity in this town no matter the section) boggles their minds.

I have found my response finally, for why they need to have access for me and others who are disabled. I am more important than your history. It is not my history if I am prevented from learning about it. It is not a history I can embrace when a store that is selling the same tourist thing as the one next door can have stairs and no entry and their excuse is history. I realized this morning that the lie does not work for a very simple reason.

All of these buildings have restrooms. Every single one has a place to go when your bladder is full, when the tourist trap food gives you a stomach ache, or when you need to check your make up. Every single one. All of these buildings were built without restrooms. Every single one. They were built with out houses in the back, all of which are torn down. If access is less important than poop, you are obviously not thinking straight. If you prize history over poeple, you lose vital lessons about people that history contains. Yes, the stories here are amusing, amazing, and important. So are the people who want to hear them and might not be able to.

So there it is, my reply has been cemented finally. Whenever someone plays the history card in this never ending game of poker for bigots, I have my answer. If you can put in an outhouse, you can put in a ramp. I am more important than your history.

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3 Comments

  1. Great post Kat. Nailed it on the head, as always. If buildings can cater to needs of able-bodied and privileged bodies — there are elevators almost everywhere, right? — then why not work to make differently-abled people a part of the narrative, space and history?

    I was thinking of writing to you and then I saw this. I hope you’re feeling better.

    Regards,
    J.

  2. My literal mental image, me smacking bigots in the head and giving them concussions. apparently I am full of rawr today.

    There aren’t elevators almost everywhere sadly, though there should be. I really am considering a museum of disability and history someday. When I can buy up ancient wheelchairs and enshrine them.

  3. I’ve not used a wheelchair yet, but I sometimes need a stick to get around because of extremely painful swollen knee and ankle joints. Many buildings where I live, NEW buildings, either don’t have ramps, or have ramps that are on such a steep incline I wonder how anyone (wheelchair or stick) can get up them, or the ramps are placed in far away unseen unnoticeable areas and terribly hard to find. Nobody really cares to consider the less aggressively mobile – so… we are supposed to depend on someone / other people to get around? Thanks for once again hitting the nail on the head.


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