This is the first post in a series, "In My Shoes," in which I will describe different experiences I've had dealing with accessibility issues.
In 2005, the Apple Valley Cinema in Smithfield, RI closed down for good. Even though it was 10 minutes away from the house I grew up in, my family and I only went to the movies there a handful of times. This is because I could get in the building with no problem, but once inside, the only place I could access was the ticket counter. Everywhere else — bathrooms, concessions, and the actual movie theaters — was accessible only by stairs. If I wanted to make it to the movie screen, my parents would have to bring my manual wheelchair, and the process went like this: first they would lift me out of the chair, then put me on a nearby bench, carry the chair up, carry me after, and finally put me back in my chair. Luckily, I was much younger, so my parents were physically able to lift me. Now that I’m 21, not only is that not possible, it would also be sort of embarrassing being carried up the stairs by my mom or dad.
All these years later, this memory has stuck with me. It bothered me the theater was so close, but I couldn’t go there. Sometimes my friends would go the movies, and when I would ask them which theater, if they said Apple Valley, I'd just say I couldn't go. That made me feel left out, like I wasn't part of the group. It frustrated me back then, but if the theater were still open today, it would bother me even more now.
Because now that I have this project, Equal Access RI, it's different. In the past, I would encounter a problem like that and just shrug it off and pretend it didn’t even exist. If there was a place I couldn't access, I just assumed it wasn't possible and I would move on. Now, because I know it’s possible to make change, I want to do something about it, to help myself and others. It's always on my mind — not necessarily this project, but the issue of handicap accessibility is something I think about all the time. It's not just a switch I can turn off. It affects me on a daily basis.
Have you ever encountered accessibility issues in your life? Have you been left out, or had go somewhere you didn’t want to, because of limited handicap access? How did you approach the problem? Id love to hear your story in the comments section below.
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