I now introduce myself as a disability rights activist. I began to pay attention to local politics and related activities last fall. Our city redevelopment plans are charging along, without any city staffer to pay attention to the needs of the disabled. As such, I’ve been making the most of my limited energy and have been swapping housework for activism. I believe it is important that the needs of people with disabilities be thought of during any city planning motions.
Pick a ‘team’ — planning, parks, library and more
Public hearings now fascinate me. It is amazing how quickly you get to know the various players. (I use my cell phone camera to record to help me learn, review topics and people.)
Speak up, and they quickly will get to know you, too. Maybe civic engagement will provide you with the excitement of rooting for baseball teams. It certainly has for me. Our city council has a suspenseful mix of progressives and conservatives that sometimes manage to agree on something.
I make sure I read the agenda packet, and sign up for all the possible email notices of board meetings and planning committees. Then I attend the meetings to learn about whatever issues need action.
My primary goal is to have the city agree to build a new library rather than expanding the old one with all the limitations of a circa-1995 building.
And I already have made a difference! I attended and spoke at every board meeting starting in January when expansion was deemed the “only way to go” — much to my horror.
After my open meeting public comments, the Library Board agreed to further research the pros and cons of a new building versus expanding (gutting and starting over, really?) the old library. My talking points included research via the web about what the prize-winning library architects had been doing for other public libraries, and discovered my new favorite thing: A drive-through book pick-up!
This feature would not be possible at the current library location in a congested part of the city’s downtown. But it would be GREAT for people with disabilities! Not having to get out of your car just to pick up your books! Moms with kids would love it, too!
I have followed up my public comments by making a blog about the advantages of new libraries, and I plan to cover any cons, too, since I want to be objective. Now I just have to find more time and energy to keep content coming and engaging the board members.
Best use of my limited energy
That’s why the clutter has to wait. Getting a new library is far more important to me than having a messy home. (Though I wish I could do both.)
Attending city council meetings, the library board meetings, and the many other public meetings for the city’s redevelopments plans in this small Midwest city of 110,000, has kept me very busy. No city staffer is disabled. No disabled people work for any of the consultants. All of them seem to have next to no experience with any kind of physical limitations.
But MS is the all-purpose disease. I know what it is like to be in a wheelchair, to be blind (in one eye), and have severe double vision. My weak upper body makes every door a challenge if not equipped with assist.
Sharing my experience may help make change happen for the city’s redevelopment plans.
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