Deep Thought: More Circle Drawing

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Deep Thought: More Circle Drawing

Two middle-aged men standing on stone steps in winter 1921. They are formally dressed and wearing warm gloves. One man is wearing a top hat and holding a walking cane. He wears tinted pince-nez glasses. The other man is holding the first man's arm at the elbow. Both are smiling.
Reverend Henry Couden (L) and his friend Dr James Montgomery.
Both men were chaplains of the US House of Representatives.
Rev Couden was blinded in service
during the Civil War.
I am Kamala Harris, my pronouns are she and her, and I am a woman sitting at the table wearing a blue suit.

In case you don't know, Kamala Harris is the vice president of the US. Believe it or not, this statement of hers caused the political opposition to criticise her.

Yes, of course, I hear you saying. The opposition always does that. Especially in summer. They have to find trivial things to fuss about. After all, hasn't the Pennsylvania race for the open US Senate seat devolved to 'Dr Oz says Fetterman likes Bernie Sanders,' followed by 'yeah, well, Dr Oz doesn't even live in Pennsylvania.' (Both statements are true.) But whereas the Pennsylvania Senate race is making social media laugh – the plain-spoken giant, Lieutenant Governor Fetterman, and his family (including the dogs) are trolling the life out of the socially inept millionaire TV doctor – Kamala Harris' statement pointed out major flaws in the way people look at things.

I won't repeat much of what was said on Twitter. Most of it was offensive to just about everybody. Here's one example: 'Americans are struggling with real issues like record high gas prices, disorder at the border, recession fears. But pronouns are a top concern at the WH.'

What the heck do pronouns have to do with gas prices? Will not using descriptive text help end border problems or solve economic issues? Will politicians and their 'surrogates' ever start making sense again?

Here come the highbrow media to elitesplain it to us. Trigger warning: this Atlantic op/ed (filed under 'Ideas'!) will probably make you choke. It should. It's trivializing and patronising about the blind. I'm sure Mr Wood had a deadline to meet, but I wish he had tried the 'read aloud to your cat' test. Any feline worth its tuna would have helpfully hit the delete button.

Now, aside from finding this sort of reaction fairly stupid, I am angry at people who say things like this for another reason. The conference was celebrating an anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. A lot of people complain about the ADA. They don't want to have laws to make public spaces more accessible to people with disabilities. That makes me angry.

Worse is the knee-jerk reaction of people any time it is decided to do anything to include people with issues that require accommodation. When the ADA was first passed, people complained about the parking places. Then, of course, they all wanted a special parking permit. They kvetched about Braille labels on things. If you don't read Braille (I can't), just ignore it. 'Why do they need Braille on bank drive-throughs? Blind people can't drive, ha, ha, ha,' is not as clever a remark as they think it is.

'Wheelchair ramps are unaesthetic.' Give us a break. What reactions like this tell us is that some people are afraid to draw their circle wider. They're afraid to let any more people in on what to them is everyday life. Why, exactly?

What the unwillingness to take a few steps to accommodate others tells me is that I don't want to know the person who complains. First, because I want my circle of acquaintance to include all kinds of people. Second, because I know that complainer wouldn't be ready to twitch a muscle to accommodate me if I needed it. You can't rely on people like that. If you're not exactly like them, then you don't count.

Personally, I applaud the vice president for being willing to learn something new and try it out. I also applaud people who work for solutions to our mutual problems. After all, anyone, anytime, can experience the need for help. As Andre Louis put it:

I've been that blind guy that led people out of a darkened house because the power was cut, and the place was smoky due to fire. Better emergency strip-lighting would have made that a less dangerous and less harrowing experience for those with sight who don't live in darkness.

Andre Louis has some good things to say about accessibility. Try following him @FreakyFwoof on Twitter. He also composes music, so it's a win/win.

See? We can draw bigger circles if we think outside our own boxes.

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Dmitri Gheorgheni

08.08.22 Front Page

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