Bells. Ramps. Elevators. Doors. These are things that share common traits. These are things that can be categorized as a set. All four were invented by man. All four are put to practical use. All four serve to make life easier. And all four, in some cases, are left reserved for the disabled.
There is an elevator in the Student Center, one that many may have never seen. It’s passed the Bookstore, down the hall, passed the Cultural Center and HofstraCard office. There’s a little nook that leads to maintenance, and housed within it is the tiny lift. And below the call button is a little blue sign. A sign that reads, “For Use By Disabled Only.”
This elevator goes downstairs, where you’ll find the Post Office, some bathrooms, and the lower level of the Bookstore. You know, where they keep the textbooks. A locked door blocks this area, but it will be opened by a friendly staffer as soon as you ring the bell. Just don’t expect them to let you in unless your in a wheelchair, and don’t dare try to get out that way either. You’ll be scolded and sent away, told to take the staircase instead.
Bells. Ramps. Elevators. Doors. All four invented by man. All for put to practical use. For the disabled, they make life possible. They serve as tools that work toward the ultimate goal. To achieve the greatest degree of independence possible. To do things for yourself that you couldn’t otherwise do. This is a great and honorable quest that all human beings should strive for. But something being a necessity for one does not preclude it from the convenience of another.
There is a second great and honorable quest that all human beings should strive for. Equality. Since Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery, we as a people have worked toward equality. Or at least that is what we repeatedly claim. Yet we continue to find ways to be separate. Back then, and until only recently, it was separate buses, separate restaurants, separate drinking fountains and toilets. Now it’s doors, ramps, elevators and bells.
The groups involved are different, too, but the principles are all the same. And, sure, today’s segregations are masked with good intentions, but they’re still segregations once the mask’s taken away.
Decency says if an elevator’s full you let a wheelchair go ahead. But it’s the same for anything that can’t go by stair. So be kind to the disabled, help them if they ask, but don’t treat them like they’re different from you. And don’t pay attention to the signs or the rules. If you come across a door or and elevator or a ramp, and using that tool would make your life easier, do it. Do it. You may be doing something even bigger. You may be taking one more step, one more tiny, minuscule step toward that dream that’s so far off. You may, by making your life easier, be taking a step toward human equality.
– Dan Fogg