There are laws forcing public places to be handicap accessible. But what does that really mean? It’s one thing to put in a ramp but entirely different to actually love the disabled.
Few people stop and consider the mentality of a disabled person. Many can’t stop looking at the requirements of the outside in order to discover the inward human being. They have not an inkling as to what it feels like to always be relegated to a back or side door. They don’t know the weight of feeling like a burden because a business or organization is forced to make things accessible. Unless you’re life is deeply immersed in the disabled, the mindset is that as long as there’s a ramp all is good. They cannot comprehend the fear and anxiety of knowing you are in a place wholly dependent upon the mercy of another because you can’t get out on your own. There’s no way to explain the vulnerability experienced on a daily basis by the less than able-bodied.
Today I taught preschoolers about how Jesus’ Disciples, Peter and John, healed a paralyzed man. I took them outside so they could run, jump, hop, skip, and walk on the legs with which God blessed them. We discussed all the things they would not be able to do if they couldn’t walk. In Biblical times paralyzed individuals were outcasts and beggars. Sadly, today, even with all our technology and education, a paralyzed individual is still very much an outcast.
While public places are forced by law to be handicap accessible they aren’t forced to care for those who need accessibility. They build a ramp on the side or rear of the building and call it a day. But what about the emotional impact on the person always being forced to enter through a different door? Ask any African-American, old enough to remember, how they felt being forced to use a different door, go to a different school or be barred all together. Ask them how constantly having their “difference” put on display negatively impacted them and their family for generations to come.
For those in need of accessibility they must constantly cope with the feeling of being a burden. Most don’t ask for better because they already feel guilty for organizations or businesses having to be put to extra cost for them. Many limit their public outings because they would rather stay home than endure the humiliation of always having to search for the back elevator or enter through less than desirable doors. The handicapped more often than not don’t get to enter into main areas. Ramps and elevators can be unsightly so they are hidden in areas where no one else goes. Forcing the disabled to use those hidden avenues sends the message that the disabled is also unacceptable, unsightly and meant to be hidden.
There is a reason that God provided multiple examples of paralyzed people in the Bible. I believe it’s because God is telling us that adhering to the law of accessibility is not enough. We must adhere to His law of love, especially with the disabled. It is up to God’s people to lead the way and fling open the front doors to the disabled. It’s our responsibility to put the disabled’s needs ahead of our own, despite the fact that their numbers may be small. God’s children need to be setting standards not simply adhering to them. We can make every building accessible, but until our hearts are handicap accessible we live disabled in the eyes of God.