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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Third Time Doubtful to be a Charm

          In my first incarnation of PhillyACCESS I once posed the question, “If you could take a pill to be miraculously cured of your disability but would not remember any of your friends, would you take it?” That probably isn’t exactly how I phrased the question, but the wording is likely as bad as it was more than a decade ago.

          The idea, besides attempting to generate some conversation on what was a .com’s message board before the days of Facebook or even blogging, was to try to understand how much readers valued the idea of being cured. Perhaps more accurately, I may have been rebelling against the idea I hear from time to time from people who suggest that they would not take the choice to be able-bodied. The notion seems tied into the idea of a person’s self-identity.

          I still remember one of the few responses I received from a guy who, like others who responded, simply refused to accept the premise of the question. He insisted that he would have no problem taking the pill because he trusted his friends to remind him of who they were.

          Obviously, circumventing the question wasn’t doing the website any good or enhancing any sense of community by creating discussion. Though it took various forms, disengaging was fairly common among PhillyACCESS readers both times I’ve produced it. In fact, most engaging comments have always come from readers who I happen to know are able-bodied.

          After two years of trying the latest form of the informational resource as a blog, Page 2 readers may have noticed PhillyACCESS has now been relegated to a part of the sidebar of this blog. I’ve also made Page 2 part of the Facebook and Twitter outlets that were previously just for PhillyACCESS. The links to these feeds are currently in the sidebar.

          Part of why those links aren’t in the last paragraph is because I’m not sure how long the PhillyACCESS name will be part of them. In fact, I’m guessing it won’t be a part of Page 2 very long. I’ve tired of trying to connect with various groups to try to create a useful resource for the local disability community.

          But more importantly, I’ve tired of attempting to spark a response from the disability community. Just this week I posted a link on the Facebook page about pregnancy being deemed to be a disability. I won’t repeat my long winded rant about the absurdity of such classifications. For now it will have to suffice to say that every time we allow one more physical condition to be deemed a disability the need for legitimate accommodations for people with (actual) physical disabilities will fall on a few more deaf ears.

          Yet, there is essentially no public response from the everyday guy (or woman) with a disability on the issue. I personally received two responses on the Facebook page. It might be fair to blame the lack of response from my efforts on the fact that I’m just one guy with no substantial resume in the disability world. The problem is that I can post a cute or funny disability-related video and get much more response.

          I go back to the guy who refused to even entertain a question meant to evoke a little discussion. Instead of supporting a website meant to connect people with disabilities by being part of a conversation and attempting to engage others in a discussion, he went around it. Staying quiet on the subject might have been better than raising his hand and announcing that he didn’t have a thought.

          For the record, I think I would take the pill. Maybe I’m just in a mood after having recently reached the age of 40.

          My theory in posing the question in the manner of making it a choice between friends and a “cure” included the idea that having a disability changes the people a person will meet throughout their lives. Outside of family and friends of the family, there’s quite possibly no one in my life I would have met had I not been born with a disability. While I have a short list of friends who would make the choice something that would require some consideration, ultimately I have to confess that I would take the easier road of living without a disability.

          Of course, no such decision is ever going to enter my life or the life of anyone else with a disability. But we do have the decision of whether or not to engage others when the opportunity arises awaiting us at various points in our lives. It’s one I have certainly struggled with many times.

          While PhillyACCESS is becoming less of a part of that decision for me, I am fairly confident that the first 40 years have taught me that writing must be a part of that decision. I have little doubt that the third time will not be a charm for PhillyACCESS. Possibly the charm has been in learning what I need to be doing with a little more clarity.