Recently I’ve been trading messages with former South Pasadena resident Megan Lynch, as she struggles with the challenges of being a disabled bike rider attending grad school at an ostensibly bike-friendly university.
Or maybe, bike-friendly as long as you’re physically abled.
She’s struggled with everything ranging from finding safe and affordable handicapped-accessible housing, to simply finding a bike rack that can accommodate her adaptive recumbent bicycle.
Both of which could easily be corrected if someone actually gave a damn.
Big if, evidently.
Because this past weekend, I received this heartbreaking email indicating she’s had enough.
I have barely survived this first year of grad school because UC Davis is so ableist. Grad school is hard for abled 20-somethings in the prime of their lives. It is so much worse for anyone who is not in this society’s hegemonic class.
I went to the Disabled Students Center – they didn’t care.
I went to others at UC Davis – they didn’t care.
I went to my union – they didn’t care.
I went to the wildcat strikers – they didn’t care.
Finally, I saw that no matter how much this place was hurting my health, no one cared. Once more, I was the only person that was going to save me. So I looked around for other disabled students who wanted to work on this. They gave input, but no one made the time. I did this by myself until just the beginning of July when I finally found disability activists at UC Berkeley, UCSD, and potentially at UC Santa Cruz.
It shouldn’t have to be like this.
This past Sunday marked the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, mandating access for people with disabilities in every aspect of American life, from employment and housing to education.
And yes, bicycling.
It’s a law that has literally been life changing for countless people. Yet one that is too easily ignored when it becomes just a little too inconvenient.
Which is why she’s joined with UC Access Now to release a manifesto demanding change.
Because they’ve been ignored for far too long.
And it’s long past time someone listened.
ADA Is a Floor Not a Ceiling
“Do you know what it means when someone pays you minimum wage? You know what your boss is trying to say? It’s like ‘Hey, if I could pay you less, I would, but it’s against the law.’” – Chris Rock
Attempting to meet ADA and no further is admitting that you’d do less if you could get away with it. In 30 years of ADA, UC still hasn’t fully met ADA conditions. But meeting ADA isn’t enough. For example, accessible cycle racks & lockers are important for transportation to those disabled people that can cycle, especially on a majority cycle campus like UC Davis. But when asked, abled transportation & parking services workers say “Bike racks aren’t covered under ADA”. This is not likely true, but even if it were ruled so, it’s just another argument for exceeding ADA to achieve an inclusive and accessible campus environment.
Here are a few more entirely reasonable quotes pulled from their list of demands.
• Cycling racks & cycling lockers must be U-racks that will accommodate the types of cycles disabled people are more likely to ride such as handcycles, tricycles and quadracycles (both upright and recumbent). Racks must be far enough away from each other and from obstacles like curbs, hedges, and walls for a large cycle (including cargo cycles) to fit and for a large person to be alongside the cycle locking it without being too close to the next person over also locking their cycle at a rack.
• Campus cycling facilities should have staff trained in the maintenance and repair of cycle frames disabled cyclists use like handcycles, recumbents, tricycles, quadracycles, and e-assist cycles of all types.
• Each campus should have a hub for wheelchair and mobility aid repair. In addition to carrying parts and executing repairs, specialized wheelchairs for outdoor recreation on trails and at the beach should be available to rent by disabled students who use wheelchairs.
If there’s anything there that’s unreasonable, outrageously expensive, or too difficult to implement, I can’t see it.
Because people don’t stop riding bikes because they’re disabled.
They stop riding because no one cares enough to accommodate them.
And the same goes for higher education.
Come back tomorrow for our usual Morning Links to catch up on anything we missed today.
And meet the furry new BikinginLA intern.