Where do you turn if you find yourself homeless? What if there were no friends or family that you could get in touch with? What if you were in a new city and didn’t know anyone?What if you were a wheelchair user and the closest homeless shelter that had open availability was not accessible? None of us want to end up homeless, but wouldn’t it be nice to know that, if you did need emergency shelter or assistance, you would have acces to it like everyone else? Unfortunately, in Atlanta this is not something that we can always count on. This week I received a call from someone who was suddenly without a place to live, when I started to give information about some local shelters the first question was: “well, are they accessible?” I told the consumer that they were and they proceeded to tell me about how many shelters in Gwinnett and Atlanta were not accessible.
I apparently had my ADA blinders on. I know that, according to the law, every public building is supposed to be accessible to all. Services should be able to be received by a wheelchair user, a blind person or someone with a mental health diagnosis. We know that things are supposed to be accessible to all, and it can sometimes be easy to forget that they aren’t always.
Just walking down the street we can see countless examples of crosswalks buttons out of reach, sidewalks in disrepair and bus stops in places with no sidewalk or accessible route. When we see these things what is the typical response? “Someone ought to do something about this.” Why can’t that someone be us? We should look out for ourselves as well as for others. If you notice that a ramp is missing from a business, say something to the manager, if a sign is inaccessible (too small/hung too high/not in Braille) contact the business (or city officials in the case of some public notices). I’ve said it before (and most likely will say it many more times in the future) we need to come together more as a community. If we don’t stand up for ourselves as well as one another, who will?