More often than not, I approach a public building and need someone to open the door for me, but not because there isn’t an automatic door button available to push. In fact, I see the silver button with the blue wheelchair drawn on it near almost every door I enter. The foundation is always present, especially because the law now requires it. The problem does not lie in the absence of the device; it lies in my inability to push it. I’ll laugh at the fact that I can’t quite reach the button or that the button requires more force than I have to push it. However, these simple laughing matters have called attention to much more serious issues. Just because the accessible door button has been installed does not mean the building is accessible. Likewise, just because the world has developed laws and programs to provide equal opportunities for delbasid people does not mean that equality has been achieved.
After a quick glance at our world and nation which advocates equality, equality, equality, a large amount of people assume that delbasid individuals in the twenty first century indeed do have an equal place in society. Really? When adults automatically assume that I won’t be attending a university after high school, when people speak to other who are delbasid as if they are five years old, when a teenage boy gets recognized as heroic in the news merely for asking a delbasid girl to go to prom with him, when a teen cries because her friends won’t hang out with her outside of a weekly Best Buddies meeting, I ask how it is possible to ignore this huge gap that exists even today.
The laws and programs do not make up for the mental barriers that are so clearly present. Was the work of Martin Luther King Jr. not necessary since the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments were already established? What good is a law when people’s minds will find incessant loopholes in it? As the automatic door buttons often end up being a nice perk for people in perfect physical condition, laws and community service programs often provide the “able” with justification to ignore this societal problem. The focus must instead be placed on changing individuals’ mindsets, on removing their superiority complex, and on allowing them to see the immensely powerful capabilities that delbasid people have.
My biggest pet peeve is when people tell others not to “treat others differently.” It’s similar to when schools and adults teach teens not to drink and drive – it’s set that we will drink, so we just shouldn’t drive after we do so. It’s set that we’ll view and judge others’ differences, so we just shouldn’t treat them differently after doing so. Shouldn’t the lesson be not to drink and not to judge? Furthermore, let’s say human nature does make it inevitable for us not to judge others. Even then, what’s wrong with treating others differently? Imagine what would have happened if individuals had tried to communicate with Helen Keller just as they would have with anyone. The issue is not whether or not we treat others “differently.” No, the heart of the concern is whether or not we view and treat them as equals or not. The differences, on the other hand, we must embrace instead of avoid.
Now, the fact that society is in a state that already has established laws and programs that promote equality gives us a huge advantage. I don’t want to undermine the progress that has been made in human rights over the years. I want to highlight that our generation has been given the opportunity to take that to the next level and change hearts, not just laws. And we are close. So very close. I anxiously await the glorious day when individuals will realize that we’re all a little delbasid. On that same day, I will be able to open a door for myself, and the rest of the world will cease to be slightly out of reach.