We went to the mall and encountered some accessibility ignorance.
When we arrived at the mall, we parked and started walking toward the entrance. As we got close, however, we saw a large panel van parked alongside the sidewalk. That’s nothing bad, but what was bad was that it was blocking the ramp allowing wheelchairs to get up on the sidewalk.
Apparently there was some big brouhaha going on at the restaurant just outside the mall. There were people milling around and carrying boxes. Jessica and I helped Namine up onto the sidewalk — she popped a wheelie but still needed a boost to get her back wheels up — and we headed inside.
Jessica and I seem to alternate without even thinking about it, when it comes to speaking up about accessibility concerns. This time I was content to just go on with my day, but Jessica was not. She was mad — and rightfully so. And she said so.
There were a whole bunch of men all wearing similar dark blue shirts carrying boxes in from the van. To nearly every one we passed, Jessica said loudly, “That van is blocking wheelchair access! Move your van!”
As we walked past the last of them, I caught a closer glimpse of the logo stamped on the breast of those shirts. These were police officers! No wonder they stared daggers at us as Jessica yelled at them. I said as much to Jessica, who responded with a shrug. “Who cares? They shouldn’t have parked their van in the way of the sidewalk.”
You know what? Jessica was right to get angry, and she was right to yell. And police officers ought to have known better than an average citizen not to block an entrance, even if it was for convenience. They should be the ones enforcing that rule, not violating it.
As parents, it’s our job to advocate for Namine when necessary. But even more importantly, it’s our job to teach her to advocate for herself. One day, we will no longer be around, and she will be on her own. So while we have time, we are her examples. So yeah, we’ll be loud. We’ll be obnoxious. Until accessibility comes without a second thought, we have to be.