Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Accessibility

I arrived home shortly after noon today.  As hard as it was for me to leave Erika, it is really good to be home.  My  dogs-girls were happy to see me; I think Glenn was, too!  (smile)

I have a few nice photos to share later in the week.  Right now, I'm tired -- I've been up since 4:00 am Eastern time...I think I'll be heading for bed before the sky is fully dark tonight!

But, I just had to share something. 

You may remember that the main reason for this trip was for me to attend The Kennedy's Center's LEAD conference in Boston.  It was a great conference -- as it always is -- and my colleague and I were re-inspired and we'll be bringing some new ideas to our workplace.  The conference made me more aware of my surroundings on each of my six trips to/and from an airplane gate this last week and I found myself thinking how much more difficult my traveling would be if I had a disability (beyond the self-imposed one of being a bit out of shape!) 

What if I couldn't hear the gate change announcements, or couldn't see the monitors or had to maneuver a wheelchair through throngs of people and wait for elevators because I couldn't use moving sidewalks or escalators?  What if the noise and commotion in the airport was more than I could mentally process easily and quickly and it either paralyzed me or made me inconsolably frantic? 

None of those things are the end of the world.  Many, many people live very rich and wonderful lives in spite of difficulties like that -- but it isn't easy and often, it's quite difficult.  Traveling certainly isn't as easy for people with disabilities as it was for me this week.

We, as a country, are (finally) getting better at making public places throughout the United States more accessible. Something for which we shouldn't be overly proud given that the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted more than 20 years ago!  But, still, any progress is good progress.

I saw signs of that progress today when a woman who is deaf boarded my Delta Airlines flight with her hearing service dog. 

Wanna guess what kind of dog it was? 

Did you guess "A tri-colored Cardigan Welsh Corgi who was born in Arkansas and looks a lot like Pumpkin"?  Well if you didn't, you should have!  Because look:

Isn't she a cutie? Her name is either Hershey or Snickers and she is carrying on now that her 13 year-old predecessor (another tri-colored Cardi, named either Hershey or Snickers!) has retired to a life of leisure.   The dogs helps her owner by doing things such as alerting her when the doorbell or phone rings, when the smoke detector goes off and when someone speaks to the owner so she knows to turn to the person so lip-reading can augment the help she gets from a hearing aid.  I only had a few moments to talk with the owner and I learned that the younger dog (pictured above) came from a small town in Arkansas, but she couldn't remember the name of the breeder.  Now wouldn't that be the strangest thing if it turned out that the hearing service dog is a Coedwig and a relative of one of my girls?  Leda, if you're reading this, let us know if you think this slightly-more-than-a-year-old girl could be one of yours!

So, progress is being made -- service dogs such as this little Cardi are now readily accepted by (most) public accommodations, theaters are captioning movies and live shows, pools are being outfitted with lifts so that people who use wheelchairs can enjoy them just like everyone else and architects and builders are incorporating prinicples of universal design when designing and creating public spaces.  There is still a lot to be done, but progress is being made.  I feel so fortunate to have played a very small part in that progress.   



3 comments:

Sammy said...

Not one of mine, however, there is a breeder in Mayflower, AR (just outside of Little Rock)known as Pcan Valley. She has a lot of Coedwig in her lines, so it could be one of hers.

But then, there are a lot little towns in Arkansas :-).

Leda

scotsmad said...

What a sweetie. SHE has a former student who is on her third guide dog and is living in London...they travel everywhere. Just amazing.

We watched the Paralympic Opening ceremony this morning. Lots of incredible people there.

XXXOOO Daisy, Bella & Roxy

Taryn said...

I bet the woman was very surprised when you recognized the breed of her dog :-).... and even had one with the same colors!