True Accessibility for All: No Roadblocks, Please

True Accessibility for All: No Roadblocks, Please

Whenever the topic of accessibility comes up, you can bet there’ll be great passion. We all want the right to access and partake in everything beautiful in life, yet so much of the world is unreachable to those of us with disabilities. 

In this column, I introduce my alter ego, Sammy Eikahldit. He exists only in that other side of my brain, where I sometimes find myself in conversation. Sammy occasionally has useful insights into life. To be clear, Sammy is not real.

Last week, I went to my favorite coffee place. You see, I love coffee and I especially love espressos. It must be part of my Cuban and Southern European heritage. I was sitting there having an espresso cortado when Sammy walked in. Sammy’s a great guy and his last name really fits. He is always making wild predictions and thinking he is right with his, “I called it!”

When Sammy walked in, I said to him right away, “Hey, man. Great to see you, but I really need to focus on this issue. It is so important to the future of so many people with disabilities.”

Sammy, of course, knows I’m dealing with a form of muscular dystrophy and responded, “I understand. I’ll just sit here quietly and drink my latte while you work. But what’s this top-secret thing you’re working on?”

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That made me laugh. Sammy has a way of saying things that crack me up. “Who said anything about ‘top secret’? I said it’s important. Do you know that individuals in wheelchairs can access most types of transportation? Not always, and it’s not always easy, but buses, trains, taxis, etc., all have some component that’s wheelchair accessible.”

I was on a roll. “But airplanes — do you realize that if you’re in a wheelchair and you want to get on a plane, there is no place to put your wheelchair? Well, not with you in it. They take you out of it, put you in one of their seats and, well, they obviously need to put you back when it’s all over.”

Sammy looked at me. I could see the wheels turning. “You know,” he replied, “I don’t see it happening. Think about it, you wheel onto the plane and then what? There’s no space to pull into. And we know you’re not going to fit in those aisles!”

“Sammy! What are you talking about? There would, of course, have to be a space created. It wouldn’t be something available on every plane. Some planes allow passengers to enter from that door beyond first class. And right there, to the right, you’d have space to put a wheelchair if you removed a seat or two!”

“Oh, yeah, I didn’t think of that,” Sammy said. “But wait, so the wheelchair would simply wheel into that space and then what? Look, this is impossible. The chair would be rolling around and bouncing all flight.”

Now I was losing my cool. “Sammy, for gosh sake, you’ve been hanging with me for years. You haven’t been to the All Wheels Up website yet? I volunteer with them! The wheelchairs would be strapped in. They would have to meet certain standards and we’ve now done crash tests. The straps tested held to 20 G’s, and that’s beyond the 16 G’s industry standard. If we had space to implement that tech on some planes, I think we could make this work.”

Sammy was now looking pensive. “Well, as I said, I think it’s possible. Anything is possible if you really want it. I think I called it. This is really doable. And think of all the people who would now be able to travel.”

That’s what I love about Sammy. Once he knows he’s wrong, he then knows he was right all along. He called it! I had to laugh. “Sammy, you are a true genius. I think we need to join efforts here with All Wheels Up and fight this battle. What do you think?”

“Yes! Of course!” Sammy was excited, I could tell. But then I saw a look of confusion. “But wait,” he said, “ if this issue has had some good thinking behind it, crash testing has even been successfully done, and there is such an opportunity to help individuals and families with disabilities, then why has this not happened?”

Now, this is Sammy at his Sammy best. I always know when he’s about to come up with an original bolt of lightning. He looked at me with growing anger and said, “Wait, man, are you telling me this is all about money?”

“OK, Sammy, I better get back to work.”

That Sammy, he’s always trying to get me in trouble. Let’s all visit All Wheels Up and make this happen.

***

Note: Muscular Dystrophy News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Muscular Dystrophy News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to muscular dystrophy.

Ralph Yaniz served as the Executive Director of the Florida Society of Clinical Oncology Foundation in 2016, helping establish the organization and begin serving the community. Prior to that he worked for AARP, where he was a Regional Vice President for a decade and, prior to that, the Illinois State Director for four years. In his capacity as the Illinois State Director, Mr. Yaniz led AARP Illinois in major legislative victories between 2002 and 2006, including the Older Adult Services Act in 2004. Before going to AARP, Mr. Yaniz was Executive Director of the Berwyn Cicero Council on Aging. The mission of the organization is to assist adults over 60 in maintaining their independent living with the highest quality of life. He holds B.S. and M.A. degrees in psychology from Loyola University of Chicago and worked as a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in Illinois for three decades. He also holds an MBA degree from Regis University in Denver, Colorado. Mr. Yaniz has served on numerous Boards of nonprofit organizations and in 2018 founded the LGMD2L Foundation to help look for treatments and cures for his form of muscular dystrophy.
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Ralph Yaniz served as the Executive Director of the Florida Society of Clinical Oncology Foundation in 2016, helping establish the organization and begin serving the community. Prior to that he worked for AARP, where he was a Regional Vice President for a decade and, prior to that, the Illinois State Director for four years. In his capacity as the Illinois State Director, Mr. Yaniz led AARP Illinois in major legislative victories between 2002 and 2006, including the Older Adult Services Act in 2004. Before going to AARP, Mr. Yaniz was Executive Director of the Berwyn Cicero Council on Aging. The mission of the organization is to assist adults over 60 in maintaining their independent living with the highest quality of life. He holds B.S. and M.A. degrees in psychology from Loyola University of Chicago and worked as a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in Illinois for three decades. He also holds an MBA degree from Regis University in Denver, Colorado. Mr. Yaniz has served on numerous Boards of nonprofit organizations and in 2018 founded the LGMD2L Foundation to help look for treatments and cures for his form of muscular dystrophy.

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