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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

We are Working Hard: Reality is Different

If there is one thing I do not have the patience for it is what I call being stroked. People with a disability will know what I am referring to. You arrive at a building and access is limited and there is no accessible bathroom. You find out who is responsible for making the facility accessible and are told the problem is being worked on. This person assures you with great sincerity that access is very important. You are told that "they are working hard on the problem". Fast forward two years, three years or five years later and the problem is still being worked on. Yes, they are working very hard--they are working very hard to con people with a disability and lead you to believe access is a priority. If you believe any person that tells you they are "working hard" on the issue of access than I have a bridge for sale in Brooklyn. What they want is for your crippled ass to go away and never come back. You my friend are not a priority. If you were access issues would be resolved promptly.

The above thoughts came to me as I read an article about how captions are coming--slowly--to internet sites. Closed captioning is mandatory on television but not for programing on the internet. Thus I thought of the actress Marlee Matlin. A truly beautiful woman who two years ago made a short lived splash as a deaf person on the show Dancing with the Stars. Viewers were amazed a deaf person could dance. How inspiring! Spare me! At the time Matlin appeared on the show she was assured that ABC was working hard on the problem of captioning. Fast forward two years later and is still working on the problem of captioning on the internet. Two years. In terms of internet technology two years is an eternity. Anyone who purchases a computer knows the machine they purchase is obsolete within months and two years for some is the expected life expectancy of a machine. So, why is ABC still working hard on the problem? The answer is simple: captioning is not a priority. ABC does not care. If I have learned one thing after thirty years of using a wheelchair it is that social and architectural change only comes with a fight. ABC and popular websites such as Hulu, You Tube, Netflix among many others have failed to value captioning. It should be included as part of every single video posted on line. I do not think this is an unreasonable expectation. Every new building constructed is supposed to be accessible. Why not make every new video posted starting tomorrow have captioning. I can just hear the howls of protest. I am being unreasonable. My request, not the word here, request, is impossible to achieve immediately. I am told we need time to work on the problem of captioning. Exactly how much time does ABC need and who is working on the problem? How many hours are spent per day and how many individual have been assigned to the task? Answers to these questions will never be revealed because they would demonstrate the time and energy spent on the problem are negligible. This is infuriating. I would rather be told the truth than lied to and mislead. But lies are the norm as are misleading statements. Hence when I am told someone is working on the problem of access I translate this to mean two things: first, I should go away and never come back; second, no one is really working on the problem. The only way to change this cultural response, that is force people not to blow you off with false promises is to fight--make a stink, threaten a law suit, garner bad publicity etc. Being patient does not work. Exceptions do exist but they are rare and noteworthy. The norm is resistance. Afterall, do you really believe it takes ABC more than two years to solve the problem of captioning?


Becs said...

I usually have the captions on when I'm watching a video at home. Now that I do most of my movie watching online, I find I really miss the captions. In a couple of cases, I abandoned the movie altogether.

The buildings where I work are relatively new. They're beautiful. And they're faux accessible. All kinds of things have been put into place - badly. From the entrance, to the cafeteria, it's one subtle thing after another. And if you point it out, someone says, "We tried."

There is no try - oh, never mind.

william Peace said...

Becs, What a great term--faux accessible. Wow, this is rampant! Yes, I can get in the door but it is often locked. Yes, a lift is present but that is where trash is stored. Yes, an aisle chair is required by law on large planes but no one know where it is or how to get at it. All this is the norm--faux access indeed.
Screw "trying". just make new building really accessible. Aside from the right thing to do it is the law. I don't give a damn how hard people are trying, I want results. I want results now!

Unknown said...

Faux accessibility, I like that term! All people need to see is the wheelchair symbol and suddenly they want to preach to you about how their facilities are so accessible and welcome inclusion. Meanwhile new construction and reconstruction doesn't even meet the ADA standards, sometimes I wonder why bother at all. What's the point of doing it if you're only going to do it halfway and then have to spend more money to fix the halfway job. (Well... gets fixed if somebody absolutely demands that, and finds a way to hold them to the law.)

The lying is what really gets to me too; for the life of me, I just don't understand what's so hard about telling the truth. At least the truth is respectful and I can plan accordingly. I have to consciously stop myself from rolling my eyes when people say things like "we're working on it" or they're " trying" because they know they're not, I know they're not, and all I can think while they're talking is, why bother to say anything at all? It's simply not an acceptable response to accessibility.

FridaWrites said...

Class actions suits are probably the way to go (less work on the individual), though most of the $ goes to the attorneys. There have been two against local restaurants recently. I've thought about it, one for a concert venue, one for a kids' birthday party place that could easily be made more accessible. I asked them to two years ago--small ramp in front and back. That's all.

FridaWrites said...

I just worry about losing credibility if I file--i.e., do I need to save for something "big"?

william Peace said...

Frida, I could spend the rest of my life suing local schools and businesses for violating the ADA. Such violations are the norm. Such legal action however in my estimation should be reserved for flagrant social and architectural violations. Part of this thinking is just my personality--I deeply distrust the law, it is an entity separate from every day life.