Well, it’s mid April, and we’re half way through Limb Loss/Limb Difference Awareness Month. I know for many of us, we have reflected on our journey, regardless of when it started. Newbie or experienced, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is how we can, if we want, use our leverage to help advocate for our community.
If you get inMotion Magazine from the Amputee Coalition, I hope you noticed the “Know The Facts” box on page 15. It’s an eye-opener for sure. And if you saw the 507 T-shirt that just went on sale at The Liner Wand website, then you know where I got the number. And if you look at the three blue boxes in the upper right hand corner, that’s some information that also should cause you to ponder. Also read “Growing The Impact of our Collective Voice” on pages 16 and 17. Great article; I’m going to make it very simple for us. If you want to do more, use the resources mentioned on the page; you can find them at www.amputee-coalition.org.
Many of us go about our day and do what we do. We work on doing things differently so that we can get back to as close as we once were before our amputation(s). We also work on ourselves to create emotional stability and rid ourselves of the pain of trauma we have all experienced.
April is a special month for us; we can use the time to help educate and raise awareness for our community. But it doesn’t have to be high profile at all. Grassroots efforts can be very effective. When a nonprofit started to call out McDonald’s for its styrofoam food boxes, a grassroots campaign was successful in helping McDonald’s change to more environmentally sound practices in a very “throw away” industry.
So I challenge you to advocate for something in your community that you believe could be changed or improved, or an injustice you have experienced. I’m writing a letter to the regional hub of the USPS (United States Post Office). I live equidistant from three post offices, and every one of them is a challenge for me, especially packages, but even to mail an envelope snail mail. The PO in my hometown is in a strip mall – I have to cross a driving lane from the parking lot to the door, and drivers are careless about their speed and don’t necessarily stop for someone crossing, even in a designated crosswalk. I never go there. The one in the town east of me used to have a drive through mailbox – used it all the time. I went a few months ago only to discover it was removed. I went into the PO and asked them why. The clerk told me that it had been vandalized so much that they removed it and put in two boxes in front of the office where vandalism would be less likely. They were not drive up boxes. The third, to the south, does not have a drive through. What they do have is automatic doors, so at least if I have a package, I can get through both sets of them. (You know I walk with crutches, right??)
After doing some digging, I found out that the USPS does not have to adhere to ADA standards. Instead, they are governed by the ABA, the Architectural Barriers Act of…..wait for it…1968! Really? It was updated in the early 2000’s, but it clearly states that the ABA is not mandated to follow ADA regulations. If you go to the ABA website, you’ll see the government bureaucratic
techno-babble. It really does blow my mind that USPS offices don’t, at the very least, have automatic doors. USPS buildings are generally not leased (being in a mall is an exception), rather, they are purchased outright by the government. The ABA clearly states that certain modifications must be made if the building is all or in-part funded with government money.
I am drafting a letter to the USPS regional hub in my area. I got the address from the USPS clerk when I had to go into the building with a package. One letter, which will take me about 20 minutes, plus the price of a stamp. Grassroots.
I challenge you to contact someone and voice a concern. Something local and that is important to you. I challenge all of us, as a community, to do this. The goal is to have 507 of you voice your concern to someone in charge. “Think globally and act locally”; you’ve all heard that saying. 507 of us (or more!) should do this during the month of April. It’s a small thing that won’t take much time, but who knows? Maybe something will be done. When I came home from rehab and started walking in my neighborhood, I noticed a lot of speeding, and I can’t just “jump” out of the way. I contacted the town and inquired about the procedure to erect two handicapped signs (you know, the big yellow ones with the wheelchair logo in black) installed at the two entrances to my neighborhood. I was ready to go to the planning board and plead my case, knowing that even small towns have red tape. To my surprise, the administrative assistant for the board told me they would be up within two months – and they were! No muss, no fuss! One person CAN make a difference.
Will you take up the challenge? 507 changes in the next two weeks? I think we can (said the little engine that could!). I hope you do, and who knows, you just may be pleasantly surprised at the results. And if there are no immediate results, know that you have planted the seed and educated someone who may not even have your perspective on their radar.
And just for this one post, because it’s April, I am changing my tag line. It is totally out of context (it was part of a comedy sketch), but you will understand it when you see it, and why it’s appropriate for this post. I know you will be able to connect the dots.
And remember: “Every great discovery was made by ‘accident’.” (Louis Black – Starbucks rant)