Mom’s Fatal Fall Highlights Our Accessibility Discussions – Who Will Listen?

TW: Accidents, Mother Death

It could have been any mother left without help in need of transportation. In the middle of winter, with fewer than 30% of New York’s subways providing elevators, and buses providing mixed requirements on the folding or allowance of strollers on buses, most parents have to access the stairs with strollers, babies, and – often – bags with necessary items in tow.

Help is rare and not always available.

Access can be nearly impossible to find.

Many buildings and locations themselves still do not consistently post if their site is wheelchair accessible.

It comes down to most people being unaware of parents’ steps just to reach their destination. And that awareness should trigger empathy beyond just parents: who else is being shut out by these obstacles?

Are we asking “Who can reach us? Who can get in once they’re here? Once they’re here, are they supported by our system?”

When we’ve spoken at theatre conferences, we emphasize the value of interconnected accessibility provision. Stroller access is wheelchair access. If a city and/or institution is inaccessible to individuals who travel any other way than solo walkers without wheel assistance, then we shouldn’t be surprised if those are the individuals who make it to the most events, the most opportunities, and the most promotions. Some of these conferences did not have stroller-accessible entrances or see the need to post where access could be found, ironically enough.

A mother took a fatal fall because she attempted to access a system not made with her in mind. Even less so, it doesn’t consider those who use wheelchairs either. “One of the greatest cities in the world” still runs its stops and subway systems for single-type, able-walking movers. In this case, lack of access for those with great need had the most devastating result.

Considering stroller access and wheelchair access are examples of interconnected access – a single adjustment that affects multiple groups. If the theatre claims to serve and to hope to draw more dynamic population of artists and audience goers in its ranks, it will fight for access to it’s doors and through them – with all movement needs in mind.

If the system had been built with wheelchair access in mind, this mother would have had safe options as well. Interconnected accessibility increases possibility in application beyond its primary intention. (It should be noted that priority should always go to individuals using wheelchairs when utilizing wheelchair access options).

This piece should be a wake up call to the daily obstacles of parents, but it shouldn’t stop there. It should motivate us to keep asking questions about access far beyond the parent conversation. If we keep pursuing “who else?” at each juncture, we hope to see a waterfall of inclusion efforts that make a difference for many groups at once.

__________________

Keep this conversation going. Contact PAAL

UPDATE: Here’s the link to the GoFundMe set up for the mother’s family. Give what you can.

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