I’m an Iowa boy. At 29, I’ve spent 24 years calling Iowa home. I grew up here, went to college here, and now I’ve settled down and chose to call this place home. But, for all that I love about Iowa, I can never shake the feeling that this state doesn’t know I exist.
Like anyone who has mobility challenges, inaccessibility has been a pervasive and begrudgingly accepted part of my life. When I go on walks with friends, I often lead us on winding, nonsensical paths because it is the only accessible route. When heading out to restaurants, my choices are driven by the accessibility of the restaurant bathroom, or if I can even get through the door. Sadly, these choices are common for people with disabilities.
We shop based on whether the clerk will make a scene when helping someone who is deaf. We favor Lyft or Uber based on how many times drivers have speed away to avoid having to transport our service dog. We twist and turn a million little ways to navigate a city that fails so often to accommodate us. It feels as though access is the exception rather than the rule, our needs an afterthought, if considered at all. When people with disabilities aren’t allowed access, we don’t disappear, we struggle, and push forward, reaffirming our right to live full, self-directed lives, regardless of the barriers in our way.
As Iowa continues to grow and develop, as our towns and cities transform to meet the changing needs of their citizens, we demand that they be accessible and inclusive for all. Our state will only be welcoming to people with disabilities if we make clear we won’t settle for less, if we insist that our leaders make universal, accessible design a key component of Iowa’s future.
That is why I’m so excited that Disability Rights Iowa and Access Earth are giving Iowans a new way to demand access state-wide by sharing which places are welcoming and accessible. Join Disability Rights Iowa this summer during our #IAccessbile campaign as we highlight how technology is empowering people with disabilities to address barriers wherever they find them!
As a community, we can fulfill the promise that the American’s with Disabilities Act represents. Inclusive, accessible communities benefit everyone. Please share your stories, talents and energy to spur change as we make Iowa #IAccessible!