Wait, curb cuts didn't always exist?!?

I'm that person who gets visibly frustrated when my internet is being slow and a site is taking for-ev-er to load. Time and the ease in which we are able to do things these days is astounding; every parent of the 20somethings in my generation is quick to tell us a "back when I was your age.." quip, but it wasn't until recently that I realized the progress that has come over time on a more personal level.

One of the projects that I'm lucky to be working on involves research on the disability rights movement. Through interviews of those involved, reading articles, and collecting old newspaper clippings from the late 70's - I've been tracking a small piece of the disability advocacy work that went on in the state of MA. My research has led me to when that universal 'wheelchair' sign was first being introduced; I have newspaper clippings of when the words "...Society for Crippled Children..." were acceptably emblazoned across headlines; I have interviewed people who remember the days when buses were not accessible, or the days when there were no curb cuts -- anywhere!
During the interviews as I'm listening to people tell me what it was like "way back then.." I am almost ashamed by how willingly I've just assumed "well of course I should be able to do that!" Or "...obviously that's accessible, I mean why wouldn't it be?" And "Of course I can take public transportation, d'uh!" Not realizing that all of those things I take for granted were once non-existent and are now the product of an entire community who fought for a literal level playing field.

One of the individuals I interviewed is actively involved in public transportation access for Boston. During the interview he was telling me about a time when public buses were not accessible, and even further that the Greyhound (and other coach) buses did not become accessible until 1993. Immediately I had a flashback to four years ago when I stubbornly "ran away" from home to attend a semester away in D.C. I remember buying my one-way Greyhound bus ticket one night and the next day, to my family's dismay, boarded the bus and never looked back. There were a number of hurdles and personal barriers in that process of participating in a study-away program in the nation's capitol; but never once did I think to myself I can't go because it won't be accessible. As I listened to the guy tell me about the marches, protests, and demands that the disabled community worked for to get to the point where I was able to pursue my own independence -- I became extremely humbled by the movement's work and progress since the early 70's.

I now have greater respect for the components that go into my own goals of independence, but each decision and step I make towards that goal is now put into perspective for me: access is not just about getting in the building right here and now; access is also about setting the standards for future generations, so that those 20-something kids like myself can now go about our days zooming from point A to point B with the mindset of "of course I can do that!"

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