by Luticha Doucette
Originally published: May 17
Last year, the former chief of the Santa Fe, N.M., police department, Donald Grady II, said something that stuck with me. “There’s a thing that we call freedom of movement,” he said in an interview with The Atlantic, “which is really revered in this country — that we should have the right to move freely without impingement from the police simply because.” He was speaking as both a black man and a police officer about the ways racial discrimination can limit a basic right. But I related to this on more than one level.
As a black woman with incomplete quadriplegia and chronic pain, and as a full-time manual wheelchair user, my own ability to move freely is frequently restricted. Too often, both the lack of accessibility in public spaces and the ingrained ableism of many nondisabled people bars my way.
Let’s say I want to go out to dinner downtown. Even if I can enter an establishment — which I often can’t — very rarely is the accessible seating in a visible place, if it is there at all. Once inside, I am often relegated to a corner, the aisle, a back room. In brew pubs with high tables and high chairs, trying to have conversations at eye-level with other people’s crotches while nursing my beer leads me to feel less like an adult and more like Oliver Twist. No one wants to try the new hot spot in town and then be seated at the kids’ table.