For the past several weeks we have been trying to find a rental cabin on the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It shouldn’t have been difficult. Cabin rentals in the area are big business.
We wanted a pool table. We wanted a mountain view. We wanted peace and quiet.
Getting what we wanted was easy.
Getting what we needed–accessibility–required a lot more effort.
Life in a wheelchair, or living with someone who uses a wheelchair, teaches you to pay attention to detail, not because you want to, or because attentiveness comes easily, but because it’s necessary.
How many stairs into the cabin?
Is the bathroom door at least 26 inches wide? Are there any other important doors or routes through the cabin narrower than 26 inches?
Is the toilet tucked away in its own little closet, behind a probably-too-narrow door?
Is there enough clearance on all four sides of the pool table?
We looked at photos. We checked out floor plans. We talked to the reservations agents–four or five times.
Yesterday morning we finalized our cabin reservation, then headed into Anchorage for the afternoon.
One of our stops was the ATM at the credit union. As I stood in line, waiting my turn, a car careened into the parking lot, its driver clearly in a hurry. He parked on the stripes between two accessible parking spots, completely blocking the only curb cut between the parking lot and the door of the credit union. He was clearly oblivious, and perhaps he didn’t care.
Sometimes you get tired of educating oblivious “able-bodied” people. Sometimes anxiety about conflict wins out over anger about narrow, self-focused vision. I didn’t say anything.
We pulled out of the parking lot, moving on to our next stop.
A few minutes later, my partner said, “I like that license plate. It says, ‘Be awake.’ Wouldn’t it be nice if people actually were?”