My wife is from New York. I’ve lived there, until recently, for thirteen years. I’ve seen the old signs “colored folk enter by the rear.” I have sat at the feet of hereos who marched with Martin Luther King Jr and in the 60’s in the South and even in South Australia (where I grew up) there were signs on the pub door saying “dogs welcome coloreds go round the back!”
W e marched on Canberra, they marched on Washington. Someone shot Martin Luther King and Charlie Mabo was killed, but the rights were finally won and so they should have been. However, today there another group who are treated as second class — it is anyone in a wheelchair. When a shop keeper stares at you outside the door of their business and then goes back to reading the paper because they dont care that the 12inch step at the front door is not wheelchair accessible, when the hotel technically meets the disabled access law but puts a three hundred pound concrete planter on the ramp they are saying screw you. When the waiter at The Strand Cafe in Glenelg tells you that your wife can walk in the front door but you have to travel 10 minutes round two streets and a alley to enter past the dumpster, the sign may as well still say coloreds and disabled not welcome.
I know many brave heros who because of no fault of their own, except they were in Iraq doing what most of us are too guttless to dream about, are now wheelchair bound. Whether they have a limb or three missing or some other form of disability are you willing to stand by and let them be treated the same way Rosa Parks was when they told her to “git to the back of the bus?” Is that how you say “Thank You welcome home & job well done?” I’m Australian and I have had family members in every war since the Boer War and except for the disgusting treatment of the Vietnam War vets when they came home I can proudly say hell no.
It shouldn’t matter a tinkers damn whether its a returned vet or a mother with a 10 year old with Cystic Fybrosis, for business owners to care more about the beauty of the front door than the few hundred dollars it costs it costs to provide a ramp is shamefull. What they are saying to me, to the disabled vet, to the mother of that small child is go away your not wanted.
I met the Lord Mayor of Adelaide several weeks ago. He’s cute, he’s young and from what I hear he’s a good guy. He said all the right things when I challenged him on disabled access, pointed out how many groups he supports and donates to. Well, I challenge him to hire a chair for the day, strap himself in and go down Jetty Rd or Rundle Mall, etc and see how a part of the community he feels after constantly being turned away from one business after the other. I challenge the mayors of all our great cities, and anyplace else in the world to do the same. I can promise after 1 day they would storm the bastille for wheelchair rights. If you are in a chair or know or love someone who is, call, email or write whomever is in power where you are and damand access for it ought never be denied!