The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), while essential for the lives of millions of people with disabilities, is constantly questioned. Although critics claim that they are not arguing against accessibility, indirectly, they are. One of the main arguments against the ADA is that it is a financial burden for businesses, and while that does not sound inherently ableist, it is basically saying “Our money is more important than your lives and your rights as citizens.”
It is true that providing accessible entrances (i.e. things like ramps and wider doorways) can be costly for a business located in an older facility, but it is not unreasonable for a disabled person to ask for access. The argument that able-bodies can lift our wheelchairs over steps is naive and unrealistic; sure, some able-bodied people will do this, but not all will, and sometimes no one else is present. Asking for a ramp is asking for the right to live without having to rely on mercy of others. It can be shameful to constantly ask for help, and not everyone is kind enough to help.
Disabled people are not asking for special privileges; they are asking that basic needs be met. Accessibility is the difference between eating and starving; if food is too high to reach for wheelchair-users, they may have to go hungry. If a doorway is too narrow, a disabled person may not be able to eat lunch during his break or attend a meeting.
I go to a private university that is predominantly able-bodied. My school is not 100-percent accessible, but administrators and faculty ask for input on how to make it more accessible. This is particularly helpful for me since not all of my classrooms have automatic doors and the dining hall is not very accessible. This forces me to rely on peers and adults to get around, which is not reliable. There are times when I get to class at a lull time, so I must open heavy doors by myself while holding a loft-strand crutch. This puts me at risk for falling or getting crushed by the door. An able-bodied person may quip that I should “wait around until someone comes,” but this could make me late for class or cause health problems in inclement weather due to my body’s inability to regulate its temperature.
When I say I need facilities to be accessible, I am not just trying to manipulate the system or get “perks” for my disability, but I am trying to make my life and the lives of other disabled people possible. It is not a luxury to have stairs to get from one place to another, and the same can be said about ramps and elevators. This is why the ADA is necessary–it not only enhances the lives of disabled people, but it makes living possible for them.