Our friends “the media” have overused a lot of terms lately to describe what happens when some political event or statement causes a large and troublesome response. There is the old chestnut, “backlash,” but it’s fading in favor of more aggressive terms like “blowback” and “pushback.” Blowback sounds like a force of nature, as in, “The blowback from the bomb took the roof off of my house.” Pushback, on the other hand, feels human. Someone pushes you on the school yard and what do you do? You push them back, hard. Then they push you back harder, then you shove them halfway across the baseball field, then a teacher comes and sends you both to detention.
After more than 20 years of the ADA, people with disabilities have been getting a lot of pushback lately. It takes many forms, everything from Ayn Rand admirers like Sen. Rand Paul — note the name — deciding we really don’t need an ADA at all, to bus drivers snarling when a chair user boards and needs to be strapped down. A lot of people out there are steamed that you have that “special” parking spot, or they secretly, and sometimes openly, covet and confiscate the disabled toilet stall because, “Hey, why should ‘they’ get the nicest seat in the bathroom?” California Governor Jerry Brown, once the darling of the disability community, is now cutting disability services because, he argues, the money’s gone. A small body of disability advocates is furious, but hardly anyone else has even noticed.
So what should we do in the face of this pushback? Push back, of course. Push back harder. And keep pushing back until the original pushers-back wake up and say, “Hey, these are crippled people. They’re supposed to fall over when you push them back. What gives?”
I got this idea when reading a blog by regular Reeve Foundation blogger, Candace Cable, reporting from London about the Paralympic Games. She announced that, despite official promises to the contrary, “all 22,000 taxis in London are not accessible.” She apparently ran across one that wasn’t. Being the nice, get-along crip that I am, my first reaction was, “Geez, Candace, give them a break, they’re trying, aren’t they? Maybe only 20,000 cabs are accessible. That’s 19,770 more than the city of New York!”
Then the new, Pushback Me came alive and pushed the old, take-what-they-give-you me aside and blurted out, “No, she’s right! Damn straight! All 22,000 and make it snappy. And toss in a 10 percent fare discount for disabled riders while you’re at it. You’re not doing us a favor, mate. We’re doing you a favor by riding in your smelly old cab.”
Call it the pushback agenda. Stop apologizing for those five measly disabled spaces in front of Best Buy. Demand a hundred spaces, all van-accessible. That way more people with disabilities will park and shop and you can meet up with them to talk about the new iPhone. And your average Joe will think, “When they only had five spaces, I thought they were being coddled. Now that they have a hundred of them, they must be important. I better be more respectful.”
Less is not more. More is more. Everyone should be legally required to have a portable ramp at their residence, the same as with smoke alarms. The guy coming to save your life in a fire might be in a wheelchair. Every restaurant has one big area right in the middle so that wheelchair diners can easily wheel freely from fellow diner to fellow diner, tasting their entrée. Finally: every bar in every bar in America — no exceptions — is 30 inches high. The nondisabled will simply have to sit on really short bar stools, except for pretty girls (or boys, if it’s a gay bar), who can sit on the bar and wink.
The idea here — and I know you are way ahead of me — is that the more outlandish your demands, the further the world has to come to meet you halfway. If only half the bars in America were 30 inches high and they all had big neon signs out front reading “Home of the 30 Incher” — well, that’s a start, isn’t it?