Image description: A package on a rolling platform on an elevator with the words ‘NOT ME’ under the drawing
But I’m not freight.
I was at an event the other day where the elevator, which went right to the front door of the room the event was being held in, had broken down. At first, unprepared for the fact that someone in a wheelchair might be part of the group, the venue panicked but then came up with a elevator that was a fair distance away as an alternative. Joe and I trooped along behind a security guard who wound through the building to the elevator we would take. We then rode up and and the guard showed us the route back to the room where everyone was now gathered.
OK, fair enough, I was there, there was a working alternative, I’m good.
But then, later, I was approached by someone from the venue to be told that there was another elevator, much closer to the room that I could take when I needed to go downstairs to use the bathroom. She began giving me directions and in doing so used the term ‘freight elevator.’ I interrupted her. “I am not freight.” She looked at me startled. She didn’t understand what I meant and then continued with directions. I interrupted her again, “Disabled people aren’t freight and disabled people may not want to go out the same way the trash does.” Again, she’s startled by what I’m saying, after all her elevator was closer. Closer in distance maybe but much further way in dignity. “I will use the people elevator, even though it’s at a distance.” She nodded, seemed a bit upset, and left us alone.
Later, someone else came to me to tell me, in a really reasonable voice, that the ‘freight elevator’ was more convenient. Now, please note, I was not wandering around complaining about the elevator being at such a distance from the entrance. I was good with going that route, Joe, who was there assisting me, didn’t mind either. But my decision to go with the longer distance to use the people elevator rather than the shorter distance to use the freight elevator, seemed to be perplexing.
Then it struck me.
They don’t get it.
Non disabled people don’t have a history of going in back routes. Non disabled people don’t have a history of rolling by garbage to get to a back door that was ramped, but for wheelie bins not wheelchairs. Non disabled people don’t have a history of front doors refusing them and back doors being held open by reluctant and surly security officers. But we do.
They didn’t get my decision because to them, going on a freight elevator might be ‘fun’ … it has no history for them, it might seem like a naughty breaking of the rules, it might look like a secret passageway. My decision, I believe, was looked at in the context of their lives, not in the context of mine.
I think this is why so many people don’t get prejudice, they don’t understand why a person might react to something that they see as a neutral because they’ve had the luxury of having lived a life in neutral.
Well, not for me.
People elevators for people.
That’s the way it rolls for me.
Why. Because history makes me do it.