I am naive enough to still be shocked when I hear that some still think having an inaccessible business, church, or campus is okay in today’s world.
I believe that it is every entity’s responsibility to be accessible to people living with disabilities. I also believe that these matters are not only the concern of people living with disabilities and their friends relatives–no. It is an entire community’s concern.
Justice advocates like me are idealists. We want to live in a world where dignity for all is a basic human right.
Wherever and whenever justice advocates see people marginalized or dehumanized, we rush to correct whatever wrong, whatever misstep, whatever omission may have caused such unnecessary human suffering. For justice advocates, God is not the author of suffering: Human suffering is caused by human brokenness. Justice advocates acknowledge that suffering and brokenness are part of being human, but we we do not accept it as part of doing business. We do not see other human beings as acceptable collateral damage in any endeavor.
I have done anti-racism education for decades, but it is not my only song. I simply am unable to “slice justice.” Or to paraphrase the late, great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an injustice for one of us is an injustice for us all. Audre Lorde said it this way: “There is no hierarchy of oppressions.”
So, I can’t preach anti-racism and then wink at sexism, heterosexism, ageism, classism, or able-ism, or any other oppression.
Simple accessibility should be a prime consideration for any entity that wants to do business or be a place where the public comes. Accessible restrooms, accessible entries, accessible elevators, assisted hearing devices, accessible services and adaptations such as Braille menus or (at the very least) a serving staff that is cheerfully prepared to read the menu to someone with a vision impairment are not amenities–these things are at the heart of true hospitality. They are at the very center of the gospel of Jesus Christ and at the heart of living the gospel.
What keeps us from making sure our places of business, churches, and public spaces are accessible for all? What’s our excuse–laziness? cost? something else?
Am I missing something?
Inez Torres Davis is director for justice, Women of the ELCA.