Abilities of Washingtonians

Abilities of Washingtonians

Some people may be disheartened to find out they have a disability that will stay with them the rest of their lives. However, I have noticed that many Washingtonians seem to take this circumstance in stride and are able to use resources available throughout the city to overcome barriers that may be presented by a disability.

I was able to speak with Jeremy Wood, Disability Services Fellow for The Washington Center (TWC), who helped me understand some of the options available to persons with disabilities in Washington D.C. and at TWC. There are countless examples of people in D.C. who don't allow a disability to hold them back from experiencing life.

 

Overcoming Blindness in D.C.

 

Braille lettering at the National Air and Space Museum

 

I first learned about blindness back in first grade, when I met a man who was blind. It turned out he was an avid basketball fan and had his friend give him a play-by-play of the game while they both sat in the arena watching the game.

During the months I've spent in the nation's capital, I've finally learned to resist my urge to pet the service dogs walking with persons who are visually impaired. It was only after to interacting with so many people with guide dogs in D.C. that was I able to fully grasp the concept that they were "working." And let's face it, I wouldn't pet a security guard if I thought they looked cute - that would probably lead to a direct punch in the face.

Throughout the nation's capital, it is easy to spot accommodations made for people who are blind. Not only do most signs in the city have corresponding Braille lettering beneath them (such as the panel at the National Air & Space Museum, pictured above), but they also use alarms at the crosswalks to alert walkers when it is safe to cross the street.

Now you might say: "Hold on dude, that's old news. Every city has alerts like that." But does your city have them for almost EVERY crosswalk? Do they have them for automatic doors on subways and buildings? What about the moving walkways at airports? Maybe my city just doesn't have as many accommodations, because there is nothing like that in Cincinnati.

 

Overcoming Deafness in D.C.

 

 

In my area of D.C., there is a relatively large population of individuals who are deaf or have impairments with their hearing. I am exposed to this particular disability almost every morning, thanks to a sweet man that greets me on my way to work.

Near the NoMa station (the Metro station closest to The Washington Center), usually around 9am, an older gentleman who is a local pastor stands on the sidewalk handing out pamphlets. I have never had the time to stop and talk with him, for a couple reasons. The more irresponsible reason deals with the fact that I am often late and don't have enough time to do anything more than smile and nod. The second reason (that makes more sense) is simply due to the fact that I have not learned his art of communication: sign language.

This situation has challenged me to learn a few phrases such as "Hello" and "Good morning," just as an attempt at politeness towards this gentleman. Granted, the one time I thought I said "Good morning" to him, he responded with a completely different sign. To this day, I don't know whether I wished him a good morning, or if I wished him a slow and painful death. Just to be safe, now I just go off of exactly what I THINK he is signing.

On some mornings, I have seen this man speaking with a younger individual who I believe attends Gallaudet University, a local university for the deaf and hearing impaired. Gallaudet is located very close to The Washington Center (TWC), and it makes a noticeable impact on the NoMa community.

One day before this semester ends, I hope that I can learn enough sign language to get a picture with this man. He brightens my day every time I see him. I can only strive to be like him when I'm older and wish random college kids going to an unpaid day of professional work a brighter start to their morning.

 

Overcoming Impaired Mobility in D.C.

 

 

If you want to know one of D.C.’s most famous residents with impaired mobility, simply take a stroll along the Tidal Basin that is home to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. More commonly known as FDR, the 32nd president contracted polio at the age of 39, limiting the use of his legs and confining him to a wheelchair for the remainder of his life. Although he was able to use leg braces to allow him to stand for short periods of time, he didn't have access to many of the tools available to people with disabilities in Washington, D.C. today.


Every building in Washington D.C. has some sort of assisted door-opening button, elevator to higher floors, and ramps for even one stair. For people who are able to get around the city, but might be impaired in some other way (such as an inability to type), voice recognition and other software can allow them to still work at a computer.

 

The fact that so many people in this city are able to go about their daily lives with a disability may seem inspiring to others. Through my time researching for this post, however, I learned that is not what everyone in the disability community wants to be the case. Some individuals would rather not have to feel that obligation of being an “inspiration” to so many that they don’t know. And wouldn’t you think that same way?

 

Imagine being told that you are going to have to inspire people because of something that you had little to no control over. Some people may feel proud of that position, but it is not for everyone. I would hope that everyone realizes it’s high time we start seeing a disability as just another part of a person's identity; not some constant reminder of how they are a shining beacon for all to look up to, but rather as another example of D.C.’s diversity and inclusiveness in the workforce.

Stay Classy Washington,
Zach

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