My New Ramp

For the last ten years I have been a public advocate in the disability community, learning about inclusion and sharing that information with faith communities, hopefully raising awareness about the need to be more welcoming to individuals and families affected by disability. During the course of this work, I have made many friends, some of them very close friends now, who use wheelchairs.  For the last few years, I have made sure that I borrowed or rented a ramp in December so that I could invite my friends who use wheelchairs to a Christmas open-house party in my home.

A few weeks ago, faced with preparations for this year’s open house, I made a decision.  I just went ahead and purchased a ramp. It is not a huge one, as you can see in the photo, but it serves its purpose. I was so excited about my new ramp, that I invited one of my best friends to come to dinner to try it out.

I was thrilled that my friend could come over-just a simple supper with my kids and I. We took advantage of the time to catch up and share family stories. It was a wonderful evening.

Before you think, “isn’t that a nice thing to do”, let me confess that I am actually pretty embarrassed and disappointed in myself.  I am embarrassed that as someone who helps advocate for persons affected by disability it took me so long to ensure that my own home was accessible, at least to the degree that someone in a wheelchair could get into my home.

Even though it is hard to admit all this, I am sharing this story because I have made an important realization. Being a person that has full use of my legs, I take for granted that I can go pretty much wherever I want I can get in and out of all buildings, public and private. There are no barriers for me.  These statements are obvious, I know. Yet despite my years getting to know all kinds of people affected by disability, it is still hard to remember that something as simple as a ramp can make a huge difference in someone’s life.

My friends that need to use a wheelchair to get around-they live in a world full of barriers. One of their frustrations is probably not being able to do something as common as visit a friend in their home.  While I cannot make up for the years it took me to wake up and realize I needed to purchase my own ramp, I am rejoicing today. My spirit is soaring, truth be told, for the joy I felt being able to welcome my good friend into my home for dinner.  And the thought that we will share many more dinners in the future.

As I write this story on my porch with my recently purchased ramp in front of me, I wonder…what if every single building, from public building to private homes, where automatically built with wheelchair ramps? What if, having struck up a friendship with someone who uses a wheelchair, you didn’t have to think twice about inviting them over to you house? What if the terminology “accessibility” became obsolete because every place was easily accessed for persons who use wheelchairs or need some other kind of accommodation? Big dreams, I know. But maybe someone reading this, someone like me, will decide they want to get a ramp too. That would be a good start…