If you’ve been following the blog’s Facebook page and/or the Twitter accounts, you most likely have seen my question about how we, both individually and as a society, react to illegal parking in disabled bays. Looking back and the post-history for the blog, I’ve discussed the mentality issues surround the ‘illegal parking issue’ but I don’t think I’ve adequately investigated different society’s reactions to the problem. I’m genuinely interested in how different people deal with a vehicle parked in a disabled bay illegally. At the same time, I’d like to understand what methods your society takes to combat the issue both practically and ideologically.
Leaving aside what we’ve discussed, I think it’s time I tell you how South Africa reacts to the issue as I’ve experienced it. While there are some individuals and organisations (like QASA or UCT’s Traffic Department) who do amazing work to combat the issue, something I’ve seen often at the places I visit are ridiculously low fines and/or the institutions not taking the issue seriously. Take a look at what I see as the three biggest ‘reaction problems’ I’ve experienced in South Africa:
Really low fines
OK, maybe it’s just the places I go to often but I’ve come across places who either issue fines that I think are ridiculously low by comparison to other countries. I can’t speak about anywhere else in South Africa since I’ve only lived in Cape Town but I still think it is worth pointing this out.
I don’t go everywhere in Cape Town so this might not be a complete picture of how it truly is but this is supposed to be my experiences so… yeah. A lot of the places I’ve come across, have a ‘clamp and release’ policy and the release fee is roughly between R150-R500 (the equivalent of $7-$35 or £5-£27 at the current exchange rate). I’ve heard of café bills that are larger. Surely, if the goal is preventing someone from doing this again, the fines should hurt significantly? Or am I unreasonable?
It’s exam season at UCT so blogging has, obviously, taken a backseat. That said, it’s time for another entry – if for no other reason procrastination.
I was checking The Disability Diaries Facebook Page (which I just you go and like now… go on, I’ll wait) and I re-found the cover photo I uploaded a while back. It raises a point that I think deserves some rehashing: “I may walk, talk, and move differently than you do, but on the inside I’m not so different.”
Disability doesn’t discriminate; people do.
People have been discriminating against each other for centuries. Perhaps, there is nothing more ‘natural’ than discriminating against others and holding yourself ‘superior.’ That does not make it right. While Darwinian Theory maintains that we are animals, humans generally like to separate themselves from the other animals and often see themselves as ‘higher-order beings’ – in essence, separate themselves from nature. What could be more ‘unnatural’ than fighting against instinct?
To those of you who say it is impossible to fight instinct, I say bah humbug. It is not ‘natural’ or ‘instinctual’ for a dog to sit on command when a person instructs it to, it is a trained response to a verbal/visual cue. The fact that an animal’s natural response can be controlled to a degree through conditioning, regardless of the animal’s species, proves that it is possible to manipulate original understanding. With this in mind, then, I do not see how humans cannot control the ‘natural urges’ to discriminate.
In February 2016, I started an Undergraduate Degree at the University of Cape Town in English and History. Initially, I wanted to do Law but decided to embark on my passion for Literature instead – something I’m extremely glad I did now that I think about it. While a lot of my old high school buddies spend their types in laboratories or in Finance Lectures, I choose to spend my time debating word-choice in centuries-old novels. I’m happy with what I do. It, too, is one of the few avenues in my life that can be entirely disentangled from disability. Don’t get me wrong, disability is a part of who I am but I don’t want to be dominated by it all the time.
As much as my field allows me to separate me from my physical limitations, sometimes the campus itself and the ideologies of those around me find a way, as John Keats put it, “toll me back to my sole self.” Granted, a physical disability is bound to bring with it some challenges that mean the experience is different but I don’t see how the real-world complications should be allowed to creep into my academic life. To think, though, that 150+ year old university built on a mountain must suddenly redesign itself for a relatively small portion of the population who have certain physical difficulties is naïve – particularly when you consider all the other problems South Africa must address.
Regardless of the various difficulties I have in navigating the campus, there are several groups who strive to make the academic experience as separate as possible from the disability limitations students face. For instance, since the campus bus system is not wheelchair accessible the UCT Disability Service arrange alternative, accessible transport so that I do not have to be beholden to friends and/or family to get me to my classes and my classes are taught in wheelchair-accessible venues.
As I pointed out in an earlier post, these bays do matter and it shouldn’t be used without a legitimate reason regardless of how long it is being occupied for.
As you no doubt have noticed from earlier posts, I have a particular issue with people parking in Disabled Bays illegally. While the response to the issue is usually great, there are times when the response is… less than ideal. Helped in no small part by my obsessiveness, things can get pretty heated when these issues aren’t resolved. Naturally, this causes a lot of anxiety, (un)necessary agro, etc. Luckily, a friend suggested I contact the QuadPara Association’s Whatsapp Hotline.
The hotline was released in 2014 as a way to combat ‘the problem’ and, on the whole, has been working effectively – at least when I’ve used it. While dealing with these issues is never fun, the hotline at least becomes a vehicle (pun intended) to reduce the energy, anxiety, and stress that the other methods of reporting lead to. What’s more, the hotline provides a safer medium in which to challenge this problem of illegal parking.
Please don’t crucify me for this, other ‘Parking Warriors,’ but the parking is not the issue. Frankly, if you have a real, justifiable reason for parking in a Disabled Bay I’m not too fussed. My problem comes in with the sentiment that often goes hand-in-hand with it: ‘I’m only stopping a minute’ or ‘It doesn’t matter.’
It was another hectic week or two for me so didn’t have might time to get around to writing recently; hence the delay.
As most of my regular readers know, I have Cerebral Palsy. CP, coupled with a whole lot of other reasons, is what made me decide to go into a wheelchair. I know that I’ve mentioned aspects of my disability before but, since it applies to what I’m a about to say, let me recap in case you’ve forgotten and/or new readers decide to join us.
In short, CP means my body physically is fine but it’s my neurology that decides to play games with me – and this ‘sassiness’ my brain feels compelled to exhibit only extends to balance. Physically, then, that means that I have the capacity to walk – albeit with additional support such as walkers etc. In my particular case, canes wouldn’t work as I have no balance whatsoever (when I say “whatsoever” I literally mean that bricks would have a higher chance of floating than I do of standing unaided). While I used a walking frame for years, it just became untenable for several, boring reasons I don’t want to get in to unless people prompt me, easier for me to go into a wheelchair.
CP, although a single disability, comes in several shapes and sizes. The same could be said about any disability. Just because two individuals share the same diagnosis does not mean that they function identically. Moreover, as I’ve harped on several times before, their condition does not define them.
I was leafing through Facebook late last night (as one does) and discovered a perfect video by a CP writer/Youtuber, Zach Annery, which sums up common misconceptions about CP. At the same time, though, a lot of the points he raises can be applied to disability more generally.
Check out his video here – it’s worth watching no matter your disability.
Sorry for not posting in a while but it’s been a hectic couple of weeks. VARSITY’s Sports Editor asked me to write an article on Archery and Disability for the next issue. Since it might interest you, below is a copy of the article I sent to the editor today. Hope you enjoy.
The fact of being in a wheelchair, often, makes a lot of popular, ‘traditional’ largely inaccessible to wheelchair-users without significant changes to the infrastructure of the sport. While a wheelchair limits the sports you can get involved in, archery is one of those sports where the wheelchair is largely of no consequence to your performance. The very nature of the sport renders one’s wheelchair – often a focal point for divisiveness – virtually irrelevant.
I was asked by UCT’s student-run newspaper to write an opinion piece on campus accessibility. This is cool. I think I should expand its reach than just the university for various reasons so below is a copy of the article I sent the editor word-for-word.
I’m a Second-Year Humanities Student. I happen, also, to be in a wheelchair. In the ideal world, this wouldn’t make any difference for my education. UCT’s campus, however, is not easy on the accessibility front. That said, there are various groups of staff and students who fight to make the campus that little bit more manageable for the disabled students but they face considerable challenges on various levels. The effort that groups like UCT’s Traffic Department and the Disability Service put in, although considerable, does not negate the fact that UCT is still very inaccessible for disabled students.
If I had to put the accessibility issues I’ve experienced into a single word, it would have to be ‘lifts.’ I’ve lost count how many times the lifts I need are broken. I’ve also been stuck in two different lifts on Upper Campus. I think it goes without saying that a broken lift can scupper my entire plans for the day. Recently, there was one day where all but one of the Humanities lifts on the South Side broke and the one that remained was, perhaps, the one I could have afforded to lose. Yes, the Disability Service report broken lifts promptly and inform the affected students timeously but that does not change the fact that previously-accessible, planned-for, short routes have been rendered all but useless.
I’ve mentioned a few times that one’s disability is more than just the physical and/or mental limitations that it causes; it becomes part of who you are as a person. What I don’t feel I’ve explained adequately, though, is the degree to which a specific wheelchair becomes part of your body.
Imagine, for a moment, that you begin wearing a new pair of shoes and they haven’t been broken in yet. Feels weird, right? Getting a new wheelchair is much the same thing. Personally, I’ve only ever used manual chairs so I don’t know much about electric wheelchairs but, I imagine, the experience is largely similar.
Just like the new pair of shoes, you would ‘break in a new wheelchair’ by learning not only the chair’s idiosyncrasies, but also how your body plays into them. Ultimately, you are less of a ‘passenger’ in the chair and more of a partner with it.
It’s this partnership that a wheelchair-user develops with their chair that so often others don’t understand. Yes, chairs look similar and function in similar ways but be in one for any length of time and you’ll notice that it has its own, distinct personality. It is this unique ‘personality’ that makes moving into a chair that isn’t yours not only obvious but often unpleasant and potentially risky.
As a society, we so often rely on interpersonal relationships in order to be the best we can. Granted, there are different relationships between different people and those also change depending on context. When these interpersonal relationships pan out the way we expect them to we are able to achieve our goals and for life to progress in a positive, happy way.
What happens, though, when the relationships we rely on most in our day-to-day lives – the relationships where we should feel the safest go sour?
Catching up on the news and was listening to the radio this morning, I came across a video on YouTuber (click here to see the video for yourself) where a 16-year-old was assaulted by her teacher while on a bus and very little (if anything) was done to stop the assault. Worse yet, after the assault, the bus driver and the teacher proceeded to remove the student from the bus and quite literally left her on the curb and drove off.
As anyone even vaguely tied to the Disabled Community, or who just has an interest, would be aware: ableism is a very real, commonly-occurring phenomenon. I just googled the definition of the word ‘Ableism’ and got a whole lot of links to dictionary definitions about how it is ‘discrimination against disabled people.’ Personally, I don’t like this definition and I have one fundamental reason: it’s too specific.
When you hear ‘discrimination’ images of demarcated seating or something similar undoubtedly appeared. While disabled people often face being discriminated against, I feel referring to Ableism as discrimination towards them is too narrow-minded. Ableism, to me, isn’t Discrimination but Misunderstanding.
I’ve often heard that Ableism can be unconscious. I agree. That said, I think that in order to truly discriminate against someone there has to be conscious of it on some level. Yes, a person’s behaviour might lead to a feeling of being discriminated against even though that wasn’t the person’s intention. Since, for me at least, discrimination has to fundamentally stem from intent one cannot have entirely positive intentions and still be seen a discriminatory. From my standpoint, then, is that discrimination can be a form of Ableism but Ableism is not a form of discrimination.